Tips to Help Prevent Identity Theft

Tips to Help Prevent Identity Theft

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Finding the perfect gift can be both expensive and time–consuming. That's why many people turn to online shopping to find that something special. Online shopping offers some real conveniences–great deals, fast shipping, purchasing items from the comfort of your own home–but it can also present a danger to customers. Identity theft is one of the major hazards customers face when they shop online.

Here are a few steps you can take to keep yourself safe from identity theft while shopping online.

  • Think before you click. Sometimes the best advice is the most simple: If you come across a website you've never heard of before or are wary of it for any other reason, it's best to simply avoid it. And don't trust a site just because it appears on a major search engine like Google™. Even websites appearing at or near the top of a search engine list may not be reliable. Hackers are able to place fraudulent websites at the top of these searches.
  • Use secure websites. So, how do you tell if a website is safe? There are a couple of clues to help you. First, make sure the web address starts with "https://." The "s" indicates that the site is secure. Second, look for a closed padlock at the bottom of the screen. These clues tell you that the site you're using has encryption technology, which scrambles your credit card information so hackers can't obtain it.
  • Pay with credit cards. Try to avoid paying with a debit, or check, card over the Internet. Debit cards expose your bank account to thieves and aren't protected by federal law as credit cards are. The safest method of payment when shopping online is a credit card.
  • Protect your computer from "Trojans." Trojans are sophisticated viruses that can gain access to your credit card and personal information. They're even able to log into your bank account and drain it slowly over time. To avoid Trojans, don't open email attachments or links unless you know who they're from and why they've been attached, surf only on websites you know are safe, and keep your anti-virus software up to date.
  • Beware of social media scams. Retailers and consumers are relying more and more on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Likewise, scammers are increasingly turning to these sites to prey on this rise in use. For example, the "Tweet Trap" is a scam involving a message that looks as though it comes from a friend or follower but actually contains spam or a harmful download. These messages often contain information about enticing deals and must–have gifts, but you shouldn't click or download any links. Instead, do your own research to make sure the message is legitimate. Remember– if a deal seems too good to be true, it most likely is.
  • Keep your personal information safe. Never give your financial information out. Even if your bank or credit card company contacts you indicating a problem with your account, use caution. It's best to call customer service back yourself; you never know when someone might be trying to scam you.

At certain times of the year, especially after the holiday season, you should take the time to thoroughly review your personal finances. Check credit card statements, bank statements, and credit reports to make sure no transactions have been compromised. If anything looks amiss, contact your bank or credit card company immediately. With these tips under your belt, you should now be ready to enjoy online shopping and have confidence that the transactions you make are safe and secure.

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