The biggest online shopping season of the year is starting right now, and there are a million ways that online activity can put you at risk for identify theft or financial fraud. While there is no fool-proof way to avoid having your personal information compromised, there are steps you can take to keep yourself a little safer.
Lock Down Your Online Access
Use anti-virus and anti-spyware program to make your computer and online access more secure. When possible, avoid using public computers for sensitive transactions. If you must use a library or family service center computer to access accounts, take the extra steps to clear the cache, shut down the browser, and log off after each use.
This busy internet season is a great time to change your online passwords. It is a hassle, but passwords are your first line of defense against online crime. Experts recommend that you use a different password for each site, but most of us find that unrealistic. At least, consider using unique passwords for your important financial accounts.
Be Critical Of The Emails You Receive
No one is safe from fraudulent email activity. During the holidays, it is particularly easy to accidentally click through to somewhere where you don’t want to go. Online shopping generates lots of confirmation and shipping email, and more email means that it is harder to sort out the bad stuff.
Be especially aware of emails asking for any time of authorization or personal information. You probably know that anything that claims to come from Paypal is probably not really from them; look at all your email with the same perspective. If you’re not 100% sure that an email is legitimate, then contact the company that it is supposed to be from to verify its authenticity.
Scan Your Social Media Settings
Be selective about the settings you use on social media accounts, especially accounts that you use for personal relationship. Don’t post information such as your address, phone number, or birthday on your social media accounts.
Be mindful of what you post in your online profile. Travel plans, major purchases, or expensive toys may attract unwanted attention.
Watch Your Accounts Carefully
Many of us, myself included, need to improve our account-watching habits. Maybe that can be our December resolution? Take an extra few minutes to review bank and credit card statements this month, so that you can catch any possible fraud or errors quickly.
Online sharing and shopping are a convenient and fun part of the holiday season. A few simple steps can help prevent the same online fun from turning into a problem.