The holidays are right around the corner, and for many people that means more shopping, whether it’s online or in the store. It’s important to be vigilant at this time of year to help avoid the risk of identity theft. Here are six simple rules to help you have peace of mind while shopping this season:
1. Opt for a Credit Card
Using a credit card can help to give you another layer of protection as you’re paying for items this holiday season. Credit cards often have fraud protection not offered by debit cards, and credit card companies will often notice fraudulent activity on your account even before you do. When shopping online, be sure to decline vendor’s offers to store your credit card information. It may save time, but you’ll be at risk if there’s a data breach. If possible, it’s best to use third party programs like PayPal, ApplePay, or Google Pay.
2. Use a Digital Wallet
Whether you’re paying online or in the store, using a digital wallet, an app containing secure, digital versions of credit and debit cards, can help keep your transactions safe. When you use a digital wallet, transactions are tokenized and encrypted, making them a safer option. This means that your actual credit account numbers aren’t transmitted when making a payment. Instead, mobile wallets use random payment codes that cannot be used again. In addition, your transactions are covered by the same security and privacy protections as your physical cards.
3. Protect Your Mobile Devices
About 43% of identity theft cases involve a lost or stolen wallet, checkbook, computer, or phone. However, according to a survey by Consumer Reports, 34% of mobile phone users don’t lock their devices. Using passwords on your electronic devices can help to keep your data safe and secure. If you use your personal computer for holiday shopping, use firewalls, antivirus and anti-spyware. Use strong passwords, such as those that contain numbers, symbols, and characters, and change your passwords often.
4. Use Secure Networks
In the wake of the Covid-19, many shoppers are turning to online vendors to complete their holiday shopping lists. If you decide to shop online, be sure to only use private internet networks. When you browse on public Wi-Fi networks, you are more vulnerable to hacking. If you need to enter your credit card or other sensitive information, do so at home on your own private network, or use a secure VPN connection, which encrypts your data, so others can’t easily access your device.
5. Purchase Items Only from Secure Websites
Additionally, be sure that the website itself is secure. Check to see if the website starts with “https” rather than “http.” “Https” indicates that the website has a secure connection, which means the website will be much harder for hackers to access. Some browsers will show a lock icon or say “secure” in the web address bar to indicate that the website is secure.
6. Shred it
To avoid identity theft, it’s a good idea to shred everything with your name, address, social security number, and bank information before throwing it in the trash. Things to consider shredding include receipts, return address stickers, envelopes, and even catalogs. Especially be sure to shred pre-approved credit offers, credit card checks, and insurance related materials.