Even before the pandemic, more and more of us were doing our holiday shopping online. In the years since the onset of “social distancing,” online shopping (for more than just holiday gifts) has become more popular than ever. That means we must be more diligent than ever to protect our personal information from identity thieves. As you’re finishing your holiday shopping list, and checking it twice, consider the following tips to protect your personal data this holiday season:
- Always use your credit card instead of your debit card. Debit cards pull funds directly from your checking account, so if an online thief were to get a hold of your debit card number, they could start accessing money right from your bank. Since credit cards are just a line of credit, a thief wouldn’t have direct access to your bank, and most credit cards have $0 fraud liability and other credit protection services.
- Shop on secure websites. Make sure the URL of the website you’re using begins with “https” (which indicates it’s a secure site) and not just “http.”
- Avoid public Wi-Fi networks. Using unsecured networks, like public Wi-Fi hotspots or public computers, could potentially leave your personal information vulnerable. If you’re reading this at the café after having just finished your online shopping, be sure to clear your cookies and browsing history before leaving and log out of all online shopping accounts.
- Watch out for phishing emails. It used to be easier to spot phishing and spam emails, but it seems identity thieves have become cleverer than ever with their email scams, especially around the holidays. Remember to never click on links or open attachments from unknown sources. Financial institutions and retailers, for that matter, will never ask you to confirm your account number or other sensitive, personal information via email.
- Keep an eye on your bank accounts and credit card statements. Always be on the lookout for unfamiliar charges, especially several small charges from unknown vendors, which can sometimes be an early sign of theft. Using a credit monitoring service can also help to notify you of any changes to your credit profile or other personal or financial updates.
- Keep your tech and passwords up to date. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software can help protect your computer and smartphone from malicious bugs. And remember to update your passwords frequently, using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
Whether you choose to do your shopping online or offline, we hope you have a joyous and safe holiday season!