We do almost all of our holiday shopping online. There are plenty of good deals, and we don’t have to venture out into the cold, deal with the crowds, or wait on line for long periods of time.
And, we’re not alone. This year’s Cyber Monday broke new records for single-day online shopping. Holiday bargain hunters are likely to be out in full force, scouring the Internet this entire shopping season. However, there are down sides to shopping online. One of them is the possibility of having your identity stolen.
Protect Your Identity Online this Holiday Shopping Season
As you surf the web, looking for good deals, don’t forget to protect your identity. The Consumer Federation of America offers the IDTheftInfo.org site intended to help you keep your identity as safe as possible. Additionally, Mark Pribish, the Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader at Merchants Information Solutions, Inc., a member of the Identity Theft Service Beat Practices Working Group at the Consumer Federation of America, has a few tips that can help you stay on top of your identity this holiday season:
- Protect your computer: Your first step is to make sure your security software is properly updated. Before you start shopping online, make sure that your computer has some defense against malware.
- Smart passwords: Avoid using your date of birth, or other obvious personal information, such as kids’ names, as your password.
- Watch out for contests: Often, contests are ways to get personal information, or even to infect your computer. Be careful of clicking on contest links from pop-up ads. Even at their most benign, contests are used to gather your information for marketing attempts.
- Be on the alert for email scams: Watch out for emails for organizations you don’t recognize. Clicking on links from inside the email, or opening attachments, can result in malware infecting your computer. Be wary of phishing attempts to get personal financial information, or access to your passwords.
- Track your packages: Know when packages are expected to arrive, and be watching for them. According to Pribish, some thieves follow delivery trucks, hoping to grab packages before you can get to them. Not only do you lose the contents, but account numbers, and other information might be on the packing slip within.
- Conduct business on secure wireless Internet connections: Make sure your home connection is properly protected and secure. Additionally, avoid entering personal information on public computers, and avoid conducting transactions on public wireless networks.
- Keep tabs on your credit: Don’t forget to check your credit during the holidays, and/or directly after. Your credit report can provide clues about what is happening with your situation, and alert you to fraudulent accounts that might be opened in your name.