Yet e-commerce also gives identity thieves new ways to commit their crimes. If you’re shopping from the comfort of your couch this holiday season, the following tips from a variety of experts can help you lower your chances of getting trapped like Don. (Fortunately, his story had a happy ending—check it out below.)
- Only shop on secure sites. Any page that lets you enter credit card information should start with https:// and include a locked padlock icon. Make sure to enter the correct spelling of the site you intend to visit.
- Avoid making purchases via a public Wi-Fi connection and computer. Open connections can give hackers direct access to your personal information. The WI FI concern is that your information could be available to anyone on the network. Also avoid using public computers in places like libraries or hotels—they can often store your personal information for anyone to see.
- Choose strong passwords. If a site requires you to log in,choose a password that doesn’t in any way relate to your personal information. And be sure the password includes a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and characters.
- Activate your device’s built-in firewalls. Also consider investing in separate security software and updating it frequently.
- Update your browser(s). Browsers need to be updated just like security software does. Regularly check for browser updates—older versions could have security gaps that leave you vulnerable to identity theft.
- Check your card’s purchase activity frequently. During the holiday shopping frenzy, it’s worth checking your credit card transaction activity every week or so. Doing so lets you spot and dispute any fraudulent charges ASAP.
Cell phone safety smarts
It's important to protect your smartphone too. One good way to guard your phone is to set a PINs on the phone's home screen and backup and secure your data on a computer or in the cloud. Other good ideas include installing phone locator software that can help you pinpoint your lost phone and a remote wipe app that can delete sensitive information if your phone ends up in the wrong hands.
While many experts say it’s safer to shop via an app than a website, it’s still a good idea to see which kinds of personal information the app collects and shares. Only install apps from trusted sources. If you're not comfortable with the terms and conditions, then seriously reconsider downloading that app.
And remember your Home owners policy could offer you some important protection.