By John Sileo, Identity Theft Author and Speaker
Online shopping during the holidays is a convenient, green, inexpensive way to share the joy of the season. In 2010, Cyber Monday was the heaviest online spending day in history and the first to surpass the billion-dollar threshold ($1.028 billion). But as you gear up for the holidays (yes, it’s here already), don’t forget to take simple precautions to keep your credit card, banking and identity information safe.
Here are a few steps to take to protect your identity online this holiday season:
• Never Shop on a Public Wi-Fi Connection – Although you may trust the baristas at your local coffee shop, you can’t always trust the person sitting next to you. Hackers can easily tap into Wi-Fi connections at public hot spots to steal your identity information. This can be especially dangerous when you are making purchases with your credit card on unsecured connections. Options: surf at home or set up Internet Tethering between your smartphone and laptop or tablet so that you are always surfing on an encrypted connection.
• Monitor Your Accounts – While you are doing a lot of shopping – online and in the store – it is good to keep an eye on your bank and credit card accounts. Match your receipts up to your statement to make sure that they are correct and there are no fraudulent charges. Keep an eye out for small charges, sometimes that is how crooks test to make sure they have a good card. For convenience, set up credit card account alerts that automatically email or text you every time you make a purchase. It makes detecting fraud a snap.
• Only Shop on Trusted Websites – Don’t just let the search engine pick the site for you, make sure you are using a trusted and well-known website. Type in the direct web address for the stores you are familiar with, and don’t shop on price alone.
• Read the Reviews – When shopping online for gifts this season, read the reviews of the actual seller, if available. While the site may be credited with security, purchasers may have had problems in the past that you want to know about before you buy from them.
• Look for Signs Shopping Sites are Protecting Your Data – On the web page where you enter your credit card or other personal information, look for an “s” after http in the Web address of that page and a secured padlock (https://). Encryption is a security measure that scrambles data as it travels through the Internet.
• Keep Your Web Browser Updated – The latest versions of the most popular browsers (FireFox, Safari, Internet Explorer) provide another layer of protection with web sites that use Extended Validation (EV) Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificates. The address bar turns green and has both https and the closed padlock. Make sure that when your computer is asking you to update your software you don’t ignore the requests.
Remember, the faster you detect identity theft, the easier it is to clean it up. Always be aware of what is on your credit report and your bank statements, as crooks rely on our lackadaisical attitude to continue their crooked ways.
John Sileo lost almost a half-million dollars, his business and his reputation to identity theft. Since then, he’s become America’s leading keynote speaker on identity theft, social media exposure and weapons of manipulation. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and Homeland Security. To learn more, visit Sileo.com or contact him directly on 1.800.258.8076.