From cyber-attacks to phishing scams to scammers, there are tons of ways that your information could be compromised during the holiday season. Just as holiday shopping has evolved a lot over the years, so have thieves evolved into hackers. As technologically savvy as you are when shopping for online deals, scammers have become even savvier on ways to steal your personal data. So, ’tis the season to start protecting yourself from cyber-attacks! Here are 9 tips on how you can protect your information and prevent identity theft while you’re online shopping for that special someone.
How to protect your identity while shopping online.
1. Fuel Your Firewall
This is something you should keep an eye on year-round, but it’s especially important to make sure you have a strong computer security system. One of the first things that hackers look for when stealing information are holes or weak points in your firewalls so that they can use malware to sneak a peek into all of those card numbers you’re putting into websites.
There are 4 ways that hackers are usually able to get personal information:
- Viruses – programs that can negatively change or remove computer software.
- Trojans – programs that can create backdoors in your security systems by disguising itself as or inside of a legitimate software. These programs are some of the ones that watch your online activity.
- Spyware – programs that hide in the background of your computer or browser and, well, spy on you. It can record your online activity, keystrokes, passwords, chats, card numbers, and even use your webcam and microphone.
- Keyloggers – a less invasive type of spyware, but still a program that can record exactly what you type and exactly where you type it.
So, how do you protect yourself? Make sure your firewall and computer operating systems are up to date before doing any online shopping. If your computer systems are current, they’ll more than likely be able to catch, alert you to, and delete any potential threats from websites, pop-ups, or downloads.
2. Keep Track of When & Where You’re Using Your Card
When you’re buying for a lot of friends and family, it can be easy to use different cards for different purchases so that all of your spending is spread out evenly. Just make sure that when you’re using different payment methods, keep a mental or physical tab of which websites you’re using your card on and even which gift you purchased on that card. If your data is compromised, keeping track of that info can make pinpointing the perp a whole lot easier.
3. Use a Secure URL
Most internet browsers and websites have made it a lot easier for users and consumers to keep their websites secure. Secure websites are one of the ways that webmasters are keeping the web safe. See that little “s” at the end of the HTTP in your website’s URL? That extra letter, combined with the padlock symbol before it, means that the website you’re on is located on a secure connection.
There’s a lot of tech-speak and processes involved with explaining how websites make their connections secure. Basically, a secure connection means that all the information you share with that website is encrypted. Encryption is kind of like a secret code that only the owner of that website has the tools to crack.
4. Know how your bank handles fraud cases.
Do a bit of research on your bank and how they handle suspicious charges. Do they alert you? When do they alert you? How do they alert you? Do they have you set up travel notices? If you are the victim of fraud or stolen identities, is there a hotline to call? How responsive is your bank? How do they handle the stolen funds? How will they handle your account and cards connected to that account? What is their customer service like? Are they able to stop the charge or get your money back? How are they protecting you now and in the future?
These are some of the vital questions you should know about your bank’s fraud process. You should also make a mental note of the steps you’ll need to take in your bank’s fraud process to make your case as smooth as possible.
5. Use More Credit and Less Debit
It can be scary to ring up a big bill on your credit card, but it’s a lot easier to argue and resolve a balance on a credit card than to restore lost money in a bank account. Plus, if you do already have the money to buy your gifts with your debit card, you can just pay off the credit card bill that you run up immediately after you’re done shopping.
6. Do Your Research!
If you don’t know or haven’t purchased from a retailer or their site before, check out their reputation. You can do a quick Google search for the retailer’s name + scam, look for online reviews, or search the shop in the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) website.
7. Don’t use Public Wi-Fi.
Think about it – password protecting your internet connection at least puts an extra obstacle in front of a hacker. Without that protection, your Wi-Fi connection can be an open gate for a hacker to put all kinds of malware into your computer. It can also be a lot easier for them to openly see what sites you’re using, what you’re doing on those sites, and any personal information you input or send through those sites.
9. Trust Your Gut.
Finding an online shopping website can be very similar to finding the perfect gift. If you’re not sure about it, don’t buy (from) it. If a link, ad, or website looks sketchy, it probably is. If the price on a perfect gift is too good to be true, it probably is. If you feel like a website is asking for more than the required amount of information for a purchase (like your full SSN), it’s fine to go elsewhere. The internet is filled with tons of retail websites. So, more than likely, you’ll be able to find the same thing from a different, reputable seller.
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