Shopping online is a convenient option any time of the year, but when the holidays approach, the ability to shop whenever, wherever is even more appealing. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also a busy time for identity thieves who take to the Internet in droves, intent on capitalizing on shopper frenzy so they can steal as much credit card information as possible. If you plan on shopping online this holiday season, here are a few important tips that can help keep you from becoming a victim of identity theft and credit card fraud:
- Don’t use public hotspots. Relaxing in your local coffeehouse while you do your holiday shopping may sound like a relaxing alternative to braving the crowds at the shopping mall, but public WiFi is not designed to protect your identity. Skip the public access WiFi and shop from the security of your home WiFi connection instead.
- Change your passwords throughout the shopping season. Make them difficult to guess (and keep a list handy so you don’t forget which ones you’re using).
- Before typing in your credit card information, make sure the websites you’re using are secure by looking for the “https” in the navigation bar. The “s” indicates the site is secure.
- Beware of clicking on coupon codes unless they’re from a reputable coupon site like Ebates.com or RetailMeNot.com. Some codes can hide viruses and spyware that can access your personal information and even hijack your computer.
- Stick to one credit card if possible, and check your account on a regular basis to ward against credit card fraud.
- Ask your card provider if they offer temporary “virtual” card numbers: numbers that are linked to your account, but are good for only a single purchase or a specific amount of money. That way you can avoid using your actual account number when placing an order.
- Keep your security software up to date. Check to ensure you’re using the latest version of your security software, run scans on a regular basis and sign up for automatic updates so your computer is ready to battle threats as they emerge.
- Finally, you might also want to consider signing up for a credit monitoring service or putting an alert on your credit cards. Alerts automatically email you for transactions over a certain amount so you can confirm they’re legitimate.
You don’t have to avoid online shopping to be safe from fraud and identity theft. Just follow these tips to reduce your risks, and your holiday shopping season can be relaxing and safe.