The holiday season is the most joyful time of year – spent enjoying family, friends, and food. The last thing you should have to worry about is the threat of someone stealing your credit card information, or even worse, your entire identity. With today’s increased dependence on technology, and significant data breaches announced almost daily; cyber crimes like identity theft and credit card fraud have skyrocketed. Follow these 7 tips to make you and your identity less vulnerable this holiday shopping season.
1. ONLY Rely On Secure Wifi
It is a good rule of thumb to avoid unsecured networks at ALL TIMES, but it is imperative to avoid them when you enter personally identifiable information (PII) such as credit card numbers, shipping and billing addresses, etc. When you enter this valuable information through an unsecured network, you are more vulnerable to hackers penetrating the network and stealing your information. You can identify a secure network by the lock in the top left corner of your URL bar and the web address will begin with “https://” such as the image below.
2. Watch Out For Fakers
Hackers can create a webpage that is a visual replicate of the website they are imitating. However, they cannot completely replicate the domain name. Often times these fake websites will include domains with a hyphen in them or the words “shop” or “secure”. Examples of fake websites to be aware of are “amazonsecure-shop, targethome.today, and walmart-outlet.ga”. The image below points out different ways to spot a fake email from a company.
3. Recognize The Risk of Rushing
You could be well versed in the various online risk factors, but when you are in a rush you are more likely to make simple mistakes such as clicking on a malicious email link you normally would not, or providing your information without thinking through how it will be used. The extra 30 seconds it takes to slow down and think before you give access to your personal information could cost your months of trying to restore your identity.
4. Don’t Take The Bait
A common method of phishing is sending fake order confirmation or delivery failure emails to consumers. Don’t fall victim to these fake email alerts. With the increase in online shopping orders it is sometimes hard to keep track of what packages you ordered and when you received them. Hackers send these phishing emails to entice you to either share information about you or spread malware that will infect your computer when you click the link. Examples of email scams to look out for include order confirmation emails from Walmart and delivery failure emails from FedEx.
5. Be Mindful in Marketplaces
When using online marketplaces you must be careful to protect yourself not only financially, but also physically. There have been some Amazon.com resellers that have scammed people by delivering their packages to other addresses in their zip code, but not to the actual purchaser. For example, if you order a phone from an Amazon reseller to be delivered to your address in Austin, Texas, the reseller will send the phone to someone else in Austin, Texas and communicate to Amazon that it was delivered to you, preventing you from receiving a refund even though you never received the package. The best way to avoid this is to order directly from site vendors or meet up with the reseller rather than having them ship the product to you. If you do choose to personally meet a reseller, it is important to remember physical safety. Although, cyber crime is constantly growing, petty theft and violence is also still prevalent. If you have to meet with a reseller in person, try to find a public spot, with some type of surveillance. Some even suggest meeting at a police station, so that if something goes wrong, authorities can arrive immediately.
6. Credit Reigns Supreme
Think twice before choosing debit over credit in the checkout line. It is much easier to dispute things that were fraudulently purchased on a credit card versus a debit card. If your debit card falls into the wrong hands, the thief could easily drain your bank account and it could take months to get your funds back, if at all. Also, many credit card companies may offer rebates or “points” and extended warranties to incentivize your holiday gift purchases.
7. Is It Too Good To Be True?
As disappointing as it may be, 99% of the time an offer you receive claiming to provide a free gift card is not real. Before you fall victim to a phishing or malware scam be sure to ask yourself, “Why would Amazon or Footlocker be sending me a free gift card?” Typically, if you can’t think of a legitimate reason, then you’re dealing with some type of scam. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Pro Tip: When you are suspicious about an email you receive or the company you received it from, call their customer service line. Everything is digitized in this day and age so if their agents don’t have a record of a communication with you, then 9 times out of 10 the communication may be fraudulent.