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The holidays are for gift giving, not identity sharing
posted in: Financial Wellness
by Alex Williams

Protect your identity during the holidays

More and more Americans are ditching big box stores for online stores where they can shop from the comfort of their homes. However, the convenience of shopping in your pajamas comes with a risk – identity theft. 

Following a few simple steps while online can help make sure your information is safe.  

  1. HTTPS everywhere, all the time

    You can’t control whether or not a site is secure, but you can control which sites you’re shopping on.

    Sites that begin with HTTPS in the URL take extra measures to help secure your information. They provide another layer of security by authenticating the website and web server the site is communicating with. This ensures only you and the retailer have access to the data, no one else.

  2. Don't make your password your pet’s name

    This also means if you’re using the word “password” as your password, it’s time for a new one. 

    When you choose a new password, make sure you’re using random capital letters, symbols and numbers. It’s also important to use different passwords for each account. That way, if one is hacked they aren’t all hacked.

    Remember to put a password lock on your devices too. Otherwise, if the wrong person gets a hold of your phone, they also have access to account information, emails and any credit card data you have auto-saved. For that reason, it’s also recommended not to auto-save any information.

  3. Don’t buy gifts over a public Wi-Fi connection

    There’s something relaxing about sitting at your favorite coffee shop sipping a latte while buying holiday gifts online, but using unsecured public wireless networks or Wi-Fi could allow an attacker to connect to your device and view private information.

    There’s also an increased likelihood someone is looking over your shoulder collecting credit card information.

  4. Debit vs. credit

    Credit cards only require a signature while debit cards require a PIN number, which adds an extra layer of security to debit cards.

    However, if you're using a debit card you have a limited timeframe (2 days) to dispute charges. Your cash assets are also tied up during the dispute, which could cause you to lose more money through transfer/insufficient fund fees. The Fair Credit Billing Act limits fraudulent credit card liability to $50 and you have up to 60 days to dispute the claim.

    Of course, ditching the cards and sticking with cash is the safest bet when protecting yourself against identity theft.

  5. Check your checking account

    This is one of the easiest, but one of the most important. Holiday shopping gets hectic, but carve time out of your busy schedule to look over your latest transactions. It’s important to know where your money is going - if your security is threatened, knowing about it sooner rather than later can make all the difference.

  6. Subscribe to credit monitoring

    This isn’t preventative, but it will help you if your identity is hacked. Most major banks offer this service and, if you’re signed up, alert you if there’s any suspicious activity to your account. This type of service is useful because it ensures fraud is stopped quickly (usually within 24 hours), hopefully before much damage is done.

    Although fraud is becoming more prevalent, security measures are also becoming stronger. Being aware of your credit cards, what you’re spending and where you’re putting your information goes a long way toward preventing identity theft.

What ways are you staying safe against hackers during the holidays?

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