Will you be buying gifts online this season? If you're like most people, you may buy groceries online every week. But, when the holidays come around, we increase our buying activity with sites we don't always utilize and while we're on the go.
Having some identity theft protection is always a best practice, but I’m sharing four tips to help play it safe while shopping online….
1. Always log off of (or lock) your device when not in use
Computers are widely used in public places these days, just stop at any Starbucks and you'll see what I mean. Many of us enjoy a change of location while working from time to time, and you just might spend a little time checking social media or doing some Christmas shopping, too. However, you should always lock or log off of a computer and logout of websites when you're finished. These easy steps can help you avoid big problems.
2. Don’t provide your account or login information
Phishing is a common email scam intended to trick you into providing your account information - and it seems they increase during the holidays. The email may include logos and look very similar to an official email from your bank (or other business). Usually, it asks you to verify your account numbers or login information. It may even ask you to click a link in the email to provide these details. Official emails will NEVER ask for your info. If you receive an email like this, you should mark it as spam and delete it. Don’t make it easy for identity thieves by handing over your info. This CNET article includes some handy tips on how to identify and deal with phishing emails.
3. Monitor your accounts
Monitoring your bank, credit card, and other accounts on a regular basis is a great security habit to adopt. We recently had a freshbenies team member catch fradulant activity on their company card - you just never know! Taking time to check statements and online processing can make it much easier to stay ahead of such issues. Scan all bank transactions often to spot charges or withdrawals that you didn’t authorize. If you’re ahead of the curve, you may be able to contact your bank and get the transactions cancelled while they are still pending.
Be aware there is a difference between credit card fraud and true identity theft (read more on that here). Credit card fraud is short term and relatively easy for companies and consumers to catch. True identity theft is when someone accesses your resources to get credit or other benefits in your name. It takes a long time to discover and fix. Because identity theft is growing rampantly in the U.S., you may want to consider an identity theft protection service to help monitor your identity and repair it if you’re ever a victim. I use LifeLock and they notify me via email, text and phone of potential identity theft. For instance, EVERY time I sign up for a credit card, I get a text, email and phone call alerting me of the transaction. That’s some peace of mind for a few dollars a month!
4. Be cautious using public WiFi
Using public WiFi can be fine for certain activities, but restaurants and shopping centers aren’t the place to check your bank account. While it’s convenient to check something on the Internet, these networks are generally unprotected and provide easy access to anyone who’s trying to steal information. Some people will even create spoof hotspots in such settings in order to gain access to your device. Use your personal hotspot WiFi if you must do these activities in a public location.
If you’re the parent of younger children, there are precautions you can take now to protect their identities. Read five tips we shared here.
Now it’s your turn! What are your online safety tips? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.