With the increasing popularity of doing holiday shopping online, many shoppers unknowingly set themselves up to become victims of identity theft. Given the popularity of Cyber Monday, the online shopping equivalent of Black Friday, online shoppers are at even more risk than in years past.
More Devices Equal More Chances For Identity To Be Stolen
More and more people have easy access to the Internet these days, through such devices as tablets and smartphones, as well as personal computers. Any device that is Wi-Fi enabled can be used for online shopping. When shoppers use these online sites to make purchases, they are giving out valuable personal information such as names, addresses, and credit card or debit card information. By using more and more devices to make these types of transactions, we open ourselves up to the increased likelihood of getting scammed.
Identity Theft Increases During The Holiday Shopping Season
With the holiday shopping season upon us, this is the perfect time for identity thieves to step up their game. This year’s holiday sales are expected to generate over $600 billion. With online shopping expected to rise a dramatic 15% this year, this means that scammers and unsavory characters will be closely patrolling the Internet, looking for vulnerable tablets and smartphones that hold the users credit or debit card information.
[Related reading: 10 Ways to Protect Personal Information Online]
Outwit The Scammers By Staying One Step Ahead Of Them
Even with the identity thieves in full swing, there are still ways to ensure your safety this holiday season. By staying alert, avoiding phishing scams, and following some simple steps, you can enjoy online shopping without the fear of becoming an identity theft victim.
Avoid purchasing gift cards online unless it is from the official website of the business the gift card is for. Gift cards may also be purchased in person at the business to avoid any online transactions. Gift card websites are sometimes scams that are designed to steal your personal information. So the best way to deal with this is to avoid buying gift cards altogether. Also avoid entering your personal information when using any type of free public Wi-Fi. These sites should never require you to enter personal information, but rather simply ask you to consent to the acceptance of their usage policy.
Watch out for email shipping notifications which might ask you for specific information. Keep track of where you have made purchases and make sure everything seems legitimate before opening the email. Look for spelling mistakes and information that doesn’t correspond with anything you may have ordered. Never fill out forms from websites that offer free gifts such as computers or iPods to avoid phishing scams and possible identity theft. These sites will offer popular things that people buy online to lure in unsuspecting victims.
More Rules For Safe Online Holiday Shopping
Don’t make purchases from online sites that have initially approached you. Instead, order only from those you have visited first and only make purchases through the store’s official website instead of through a third party. Use a credit card for holiday purchases to ensure that you are protected by the Federal Fair Credit Billing Act, should something shady happen.
Only purchase from reputable websites and those that are secure. You can usually determine the safety of a website by seeing if the browser displays “https” as opposed to simply “http”. Do not reply to advertisements sent by email or give requested information in response to an email. Also, you should never download any type of software to be used for free public Wi-Fi.
Make your online shopping experience a positive one this holiday season by taking the necessary precautions to avoid identity theft. This is also a good time of year to review Internet safety with your children, due to the large number of scammers and questionable people out there monitoring online activity during this time of year.
[Image credit: Jeff Golden, Flickr]