Avoid scammers & identity fraud while buying gifts this season
Kathleen here from AllClear ID
This holiday season, in an effort to save time and money, many of us are shopping online to buy gifts for all the loved ones on our lists. Shopping online is convenient, but that ease can be costly when we allow ourselves to fall prey to fraud, including identity theft. The rush of the holiday shopping season, when many of us spend more than usual online, can make a perfect cover for thieves.
Stay vigilant on the Web this holiday season with these online shopping tips:
- Fake Websites: These websites are common year round, and pop-up even more around the holidays. Scammers posing as reputable companies create very realistic looking websites, but these are nothing but fronts for individuals with bad intentions. Some online “stores” advertise goods like heavily discounted designer purses, jewelry and fragrances – all bogus that you’ll never receive – and are actually just a ruse to either steal money or credit card information. Stick to stores you know and trust, and make sure the page is secure before entering any credit card information – check the URL in your browser: if it doesn’t begin with “https,” your information isn’t being encrypted and can be grabbed by anyone with a little technical know-how.
- Security Software: Make sure your computer has active and up-to-date malware (a catch-all term for viruses, spyware or any other type of technical threat) software on your computer before making a purchase. It’s common for computer owners to forget to update or renew their software yearly, which means your computer (and any personal data on your computer) is vulnerable to all sorts of bugs. Remember that viruses aren’t static: hackers are constantly coming up with new types of malicious code, so outdated security software is defenseless against these new threats.
- Password-Protected WiFi: Don’t ever make purchases via an unsecured WiFi network. Anyone can steal your personal data while you shop via a WiFi network that isn’t password protected like the free WiFi hotspots you find in coffee shops and other public places. Save your shopping for when you get home, and make sure your wireless network requires a password and has a firewall installed.
- Online Payment Methods: Try to use one credit card to do your holiday shopping online this year, which will help track your gift purchases, and help you isolate any irregularities quickly if your information is compromised. Don’t shop online using a debit card whenever possible, as identity thieves can clean out your bank account before you even notice it. If you don’t have a credit card, consider opening a PayPal account when making purchases from websites.
Following these safety tips, plus keeping your wits about you, should help you protect your identity and assets while shopping online this holiday season. Keep an eye on your credit card transactions this month and next, and contact the Better Business Bureau to report any fraudulent websites to help your fellow shoppers from experiencing an unhappy holiday.
And – if you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft, or just want to protect yourself and your family, check out AllClear ID. With a free option, AllClear ID Free monitors criminal databases to find out if thieves have stolen your information, and will repair any fraud on your credit file. Or, you can sign up for a free trial of AllClear ID Pro which includes the criminal monitoring and repair, plus proactive credit bureau monitoring and credit alerts by phone.