Shop Safely while Holiday Shopping Online

We all know awareness is key to preventing mishaps, but it’s especially true when it comes to cybersecurity and your online information. However, exchanging personal information online can be done safely, especially if you’re aware of and protected against identity theft, fraud, or account hacking. So before you start taking advantage of those online deals offering free shipping and express gift services, take a second to educate and protect yourself against common holiday tricks and scams that could put your most sensitive information in the hands of strangers, hackers, and thieves.

Tip 1: Browse

Practicing safe browsing habits is a great first line of defense against fraudulent online activity,charges, or credit inquiries made by hackers and identity thieves. Avoid using public WiFi while making purchases or transactions that require credit card information. Although free hotspots are convenient, your data is much more vulnerable to both network monitoring and hacking. Using a secure mobile hotspot via your phone, or accessing a virtual private network (VPN) service is a good temporary safeguard when a secure network is not available. When creating online accounts, set an entirely new and unique password for each site (write them down so you won’t forget them!) and always remember to logout of open applications and accounts when not in use.

Tip 2: Avoid

Put simply, use common sense. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Seasonal thieves use phishing emails and fake websites to collect personal information, spreads viruses, and makes hacking your most sensitive data much easier. As the name phishing suggests, it’s a hit or miss tactic that targets millions of individuals with only a small
number of expected victims. However, creative hackers can disguise phishing emails as:

Online order and shipping notifications

Financial account updates and

Government agency notifications
and alerts (IRS, court notices)

Identifying a phishing email or fake website is much easier when you’re aware of the most common tricks they use and mistakes they make. To proactively protect yourself from phishing attacks and fake websites, consult Microsoft's phishing information page.

Tip 3: Act

Being aware of the most common scams makes it much easier to properly identify and address unauthorized account activity or inquiries in a timely manner. Monitoring your existing online accounts, billing statements, spam folders, and financial reports for phishing scams or unusual changes could alert you to potentially fraudulent activity resulting from a computer virus, fake retailer, hacker, or identity thief.

If you notice abnormal activity, contact account services immediately. They may recommend freezing all potentially breached accounts, including online retail accounts and credit cards. Creditors will be able to help notify the proper authorities in order to locate the criminal and remediate the situation. However, this requires constant account monitoring,and immediate action to prevent extensive damage to your credit history and report.

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