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The holiday season is one of the busiest online shopping times of the year. It’s also one of the most dangerous to your financial safety because online criminals are in full force during the holidays. Even so, you can stay safe and enjoy your online holiday shopping and protect your identity by taking some simple steps.
Following these tips will help you keep your identity and financial accounts safe from scammers and prying eyes:
- Watch your Smartphone carefully. Do you use your Smartphone to make purchases online?
- Before you let a friend, family member, or stranger borrow your phone, ensure you’ve logged out of every program and website.
- It’s easy for someone to steal your identity online by using your logged-in credentials on a Smartphone. You may want to set up and download apps that lock your phone if it’s lost or stolen. These apps can prevent thieves from stealing your information. Search your favorite app store for security apps designed for your phone.
- Watch out for fake shopping websites and emails. Fake websites and emails can steal your personal information before you even realize that the website isn’t real. .
- Verify every website you use to do your online shopping.
- Be careful before you click on any links in your email. These may be scams created to harvest your personal data.
- Ensure the websites you use are secure and have security certificates that are up to date. Secure sites encrypt your personal financial information to help you keep it safe.
- Pay attention to your accounts. Identity thieves have learned that they can make smaller transactions online, and you may not notice them. These small transactions also verify active accounts. If these small transactions go unnoticed, they go on to steal even more.
- Keep an eye on all of your online accounts. If you see any transactions you don’t recognize, call your bank or the merchant that holds the account immediately.
- Avoid public computers and networks. It’s safer to shop online during the holidays at home on your personal devices.
- You may not be able to tell if a public computer or network has been hacked by identity thieves. They may have set up key logging software that can capture every bit of information you type. They may have also infected the machines with malware or viruses to steal your data.
- Avoid using your debit card. It’s safer to use a credit card or a prepaid debit card for shopping online. Credit cards have stronger safety and consumer protection measures than debit cards. Better still, use a payment system such as PayPal or Stripe.
- If a thief gets hold of your debit card number, they can drain your bank account in minutes, yet it can take days, weeks, or months for your bank to replace your lost funds.
- On the other hand, with a credit card, they run up your balances, but the fraudulent charges are taken off again when you report them right away.
- Shop with vendors who you know. Just as important as using reputable websites, is using only vendors with whom you are familiar. According to Nationwide, we can lower or eliminate our risk of cyber fraud is we shop at reputable online stores and use better known search engines.
- Print your online receipts or save them. Saving all your receipts enables you to keep track of your purchases. You can compare these receipts to any charges you don’t recognize on your accounts. One way to organize receipts is to use your phone camera to take pictures of them. I explain in Fun Tip#2
- Be careful on social media. Your social media friends may share amazing deals during the holiday shopping season. It’s smart to check these deals out ahead of time with your friends to ensure they are really deals that they recommended to you.
- Social media networks are also vulnerable to identity thieves.
You can shop online safely and protect your identity at the same time. Stay safe as you browse for gifts and enjoy the holiday season.
Finally, you can verify that your identity is not compromised by checking your credit regularly and even signing up for credit monitoring and protection. You will feel more secure if you follow up on activities on your credit report. Credit monitoring is one way to do so. These services can not only monitor your credit bureau accounts, they can also notify you if there is unusual activity on those accounts. You can also choose to put a freeze on all three credit bureau accounts to prevent anyone from opening credit accounts in your name.