Top Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft on Cyber Monday

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Holiday shopping is stressful for some consumers and fun for others. No matter which pool of consumers you fall into, you need to exercises some cautionary behavior to keep yourself safe from identity theft. This is especially true during the holidays, because identity thieves seem to come out in full force then just like the shoppers.

For those consumers who prefer to enter the realm of cyber stores, you have your own special list of tips and tricks for avoiding identity theft. If you follow each of these tips all of the time, you can reduce your risk of falling victim to this nightmare that occurs to thousands of individuals each year.

Tip 1: Shop secure websites only while using a secure network. This first tip should be followed each and every time that you shop online. Try to conduct your online shopping with well-known retailers if you can. Search for information on retailers that you have not heard about in order to determine the wisdom of shopping with them online. You can also look for important contact information such as phone numbers to get an indication of the legitimacy of the website. 

One of the easiest ways to spot a safe website is to look for the closed padlock. It should appear on the status bar for the browser. Once you decide to make your purchase and proceed to the check out, look to see if the URL address has changed from "http" to "https." The "https" indicates that the website is a secure one and your purchase information has been encrypted. If you don't see the "https," you should probably cancel the transaction.

Tip 2: Ignore unsolicited e-mail. Delete them as soon as you receive them to avoid trouble. Do not open any attachments that arrive with these e-mails as they could contain viruses designed to steal your personal data from your computer. Unsolicited e-mails often look legitimate until you look more closely. Remember that legitimate companies do not need to solicit your business in this manner and typically, consumers do not receive e-mails from any company unless they have signed up onto their mailing lists. You should also ignore unsolicited greeting cards, requests for financial help, and offers that you have won money. Verify the source or ignore the e-mail entirely and delete it.

Tip 3: Use credit cards rather than debit cards. If there is a problem with the transaction, credit card companies have their own special department that handles the problem for you. They can suspend payment to the seller, obtain the money back for you, and help to protect you from damage to your credit. Debit cards on the other hand are essentially used like cash, which leads to a greater likelihood that a thief can steal all of the money in your bank account.

Tip 4: Protect your computer. Install anti-virus/anti-spyware software and keep it up to date. Make sure that you either activate the software to remain resident with real-time protection or run scans frequently, such as after heavy Internet use. In fact, it is an excellent idea to scan your computer for viruses or spyware prior to surfing online for some holiday shopping. Make sure that your computer's firewall is actively preventing hackers from gaining access to the information stored on your computer.

Tip 5: Avoid shopping on public computers. You cannot guarantee the security of the computer and you are placing your personal information at great risk whenever you use a public or community computer to shop online. Plus, some computers are set up to retain password information, giving access to your passwords to anyone else who uses the computer.

Tip 6: Ask questions and lots of them if you decide to holiday shop on one or more online auction sites. The merchandise cannot be vouched for by the website and you are on your own in most cases if you decide to make the purchase.

Tip 7: Check the privacy policy of the company that you are dealing with in order to see how they intend to use the information that you provide. Some companies share the information with their affiliates. If you do not see a way to opt out of this, you might not want to continue the transaction.

Tip 8: Verify the amount of the transaction prior to finalizing it. This is an especially important task if you are also using special discounts or free shipping offers. Avoid web loyalty discounts unless you can verify that you won't be subjected to a monthly charge for the privilege.

What to Do if You Believe You Have Had Your Personal Information Compromised

If you discover that you have inadvertently become a victim of identity theft while shopping online, contact the credit card company or bank involved in the transaction immediately. Place fraud alerts or a credit freeze on your credit reports -but don't stop there. Monitor your credit reports, bank accounts, credit card statements and mail for any signs of change or modification to your accounts.

For more holiday shopping tips see earlier blog: Shopping on Black Friday?

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