Holiday shopping used to be all about Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when shoppers descended on stores in droves to snatch up the best deals. Then, with the age of technology, came Cyber Monday. Now shoppers no longer have to venture out to battle the crowds of other deal-seekers — they can buy online from the privacy of their own homes. Unfortunately, what’s convenient for shoppers can also be a huge opportunity for savvy identity thieves, who steal information provided via Internet transactions for their own monetary gain. Protect yourself this holiday season with a few cyber theft prevention strategies.
Secure Your Computer
Making sure your computer is secure can go a long way toward helping you avoid identity theft. First, check your antivirus software. Is it still active? If not, renew it before you begin shopping. If you’ve never installed anti-virus software, now’s the time to do it. Make sure the program includes a firewall and the most recent updates.
Of course, it can be just as convenient to shop on the go from your smartphone. Try to avoid doing so on public Wi-Fi where you might be opening up your personal information to thieves lurking in cyberspace.
Shop Reputable Websites
Physically entering a brick-and-mortar store on Black Friday is one thing, but the identities of merchants hiding behind websites can be more uncertain. Most reputable merchants boast a Better Business Bureau insignia or a link to BBB.org on their sites, so look for this info and avoid any sites that don’t have it.
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Avoid Email Scams
Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, like those offering you money in exchange for your bank account information. If an offer has you lifting your brows and wondering if it’s for real, it probably isn’t. It’s best to delete those emails immediately without even opening them, but if you do accidentally open one, avoid clicking on any links it includes. Clicking on one of its links is like inviting a stranger into your home.
Keep Track of Every Purchase
No matter how hard a legitimate merchant tries to protect your information, it’s possible that the company’s site may be hacked. Prepare for this scenario even if you’ve taken steps toward identity protection. Opt for credit cards, not debit cards, when shopping online. Credit cards offer better and more immediate protection in the event of fraud or identity theft. Keep track of your purchases by printing out receipts, confirmations and even copies of each webpage where you make a transaction.
Check your account transactions after Cyber Monday is over to make sure you authorized each of them. Time is of the essence if you do become a victim of identity theft. You’ll want to act quickly to report fraudulent transactions, so keep all documentation at your fingertips. In fact, it’s wise to keep a close eye on your accounts all through the holiday shopping season.