The Federal Trade Commission estimates that more than 10 million people were victims of identity fraud last year. However, consumers can take simple proactive steps to protect themselves and their families from being among the many victims of online fraud this holiday season.
10 Tips for Safe Online Shopping:
- Clean Personal Information from Social Networks: Whether it’s info within your profile, tweeting, posting to your wall, or sharing with your network, never disclose personal information such as a date of birth, personal address, or maiden name because identity thieves friend as many people as possible and join networks solely for the purpose of harvesting information to use to commit identity theft.
- Always Create Complex Passwords and Never Save Them Unsecured: When creating passwords for making purchases online this holiday, use upper and lower case characters and numbers. Use at least seven characters and don’t choose a word from a dictionary. Only save them in your web browser if your browser uses a master password to secure them (e.g., Firefox Master Password). Even social networking sites are becoming forms of our digital identity. A common scam is for hackers to log in to an unsecured account as you and post that you are in trouble and need money wired to a designated account.
- Don’t Download Just Any App: Smartphones are already very common, and will be a popular gift this season. Many apps and games can be downloaded and some have very compelling descriptions that sound fun and exciting. Read the comments posted by other users and ensure the app location is used by many people who think it is trustworthy. Review the application’s permissions to determine if it accesses other parts of your phone or location-based data.
- Regularly Update Your Computer’s Software: Software companies update their software to protect you against known ways to hack into your computer. Before starting your online gift-purchasing marathon, upgrade to the latest version of your Operating System (e.g., Windows or Mac, etc.), web browser (e.g., Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.), and multimedia apps such as Flash and Quicktime. These updates are free and easy to install.
- Shop Securely: The “padlock” icon that you may have seen when shopping online identifies the connection as secure. Never enter personal information on a site that does not show up with a secure connection either in your address bar or the bottom right corner of your browser. Unsecured communication can be stolen on the way to its destination and also leaves behind an unsecured cache of the data transmission on your computer.
- Avoid Phishing Attacks: Identity thieves spam year round, but especially during the holiday season. Users should be on the lookout for e-mails that look legitimate and purport to save you money or confirm a purchase. Never click links provided in e-mails. Copy the web address to your browser and check to make sure it is taking you to the company with which you intend to do business.
- Never Give Personal Information to Customer Service over “Live Chat”: You might have questions on gifts you want to buy or a potential post-holiday return. In any situation in which a company requests your personal information to continue a discussion, always request a contact number for phone communication. This sensitive data can be logged by the agents on the other end and used for malicious purposes.
- Disable and Avoid Peer-to-Peer File Sharing: The FTC recently concluded a study that found over 100 companies shared personal information about their customers over peer-to-peer file networks and urged them to change their security policies to prohibit this type of behavior. You can further prevent these types of breaches by removing P2P software from your own computer. If you insist on using it, ensure that you are not sharing any of your folders, as hackers and malcontents can quickly make off with unassuming tax documents and chat logs that contain your sensitive data.
- Do Not Trust “Scareware”: This year has seen a large rise in the number of “fake” virus and spyware scanners that are in fact malware. Do not click on advertisements claiming you might be infected with a virus – these are tricks in order to get you to download trojan products. No popup will ever be able to actively scan your system without your explicit permission, so ignore them at all times and trust or upgrade your current security software.
- Protect Your Identity Information: Do not keep unprotected copies of your identity information on your computer. Most people have typed their Credit Card number into an e-mail or web browser when purchasing gifts but forgot it was saved to their computer. Use Identity Finder Free or manually search your computer to find and protect anything that could be used to commit identity fraud.
Tips provided by Identity Finder. The company’s technology provides users the ability to prevent identity theft and data leakage by finding and protecting sensitive data. They have quickly grown to become a leader in identity protection and Data Loss Prevention (DLP) by helping millions of consumers, small businesses, and enterprises across the world.