This holiday season, while we’re making shopping lists and checking them twice, it’s just as important to think about safeguarding our personal information. Each year, approximately 17 million Americans become victims of identity theft, and with the increase in shopping around the holidays, more people become vulnerable to this reality.
December is Identity Theft Protection Month and at TruWest Credit Union we take this topic very seriously. Much progress has been made over the last few years with cyber and financial security, but hackers continue to find ways to steal credit card information and create online scams that can trick even the most frequent, card-swiping shoppers and seasoned internet users.
Here are some ways to protect your information as you swipe and shop online this holiday season:
Watch the WiFi Connection
While it might be nice to hop on free internet connections in airports or local coffee shops, public WiFi is the easiest place for hackers to steal information. They are able to gain access to everything you click on and send, including credit cards, social security numbers, addresses and banking information. Save the shopping until you can access a private connection.
Most of us use long, complex passwords for emails and bank accounts and then we auto-save them to access easier next time. It’s important to remember the rules about secure passwords also run true for storing other information on ecommerce websites. Any personal information saved can leave you exposed if that site gets hacked. Think twice about auto-saving credit card information and be careful about who you share those accounts with, whether it be family or friends.
Be Cautious When Clicking
Email and ads with “too good to be true” deals are probably just that. Plus, they have become easy ways for thieves to phish your data. Phishing is a method to gather personal information through fraudulent emails or websites. Even if the information you’re giving doesn’t seem too serious, it is better to stay clear of websites that don’t use “https” or a lock in their URL. You may not notice any malicious use of your information right away, so it’s important to be on the lookout if you think you might have fallen victim before.
Look For the Lock
You might get an alert when a website is not safe, but that is not always the case. Before entering information on a website, locate the lock symbol near the URL in the address bar. This symbol shows the website has a secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption, meaning it is a safe website for shopping. If there you don’t see a lock, don’t run the risk.
The hustle and bustle of the holidays might lead to you falling out of typical patterns, such as checking your financial statement or credit score. Look at statements online or through your mobile finance app before you get it in the mail. Set alerts through your banking app to notify you when suspicious charges are made. The quicker fraudulent charges are found, the easier they are to recover. —Alan Althouse, CEO and President of TruWest Credit Union