Opportunistic cybercriminals love this time of year just as much as anyone who can’t stop quoting “Elf” or belting out Christmas carols at inappropriate times. The holidays mean lots of people are shopping. Which also means they’re entering their credit card information often. While you’re shopping, use these identity theft protection tips to your advantage.
Identity Theft Protection for Everyone
1. Stay on the Lookout for Spoof Emails
Each holiday season, there’s a significant increase in the number of spoof email scams.
Your email inbox is certainly flooded with companies advertising their holiday deals, and you probably open the ones that sound the best. Hackers know that, so they package sweet-sounding emails that are actually loaded with malware.
Common spoof scams include emails that look as if they’re from familiar names, such as those of retail outlets or even your friends, and verification emails that masquerade as banks or the IRS. Learn to tell the difference between a real email and a spoof.
2. Keep away from Credit Card Skimmers
Credit card skimmers also tend to pop up around the holidays. These devices, which are invisible to the untrained eye, download your credit card information to the computers of criminals. Then, the criminals can steal your identity.
We’ve written a blog that details how to spot credit card skimmers, and what to do if you suspect you’ve fallen victim to one.
3. Credit, not Debit
You may be surprised to learn that a major difference between credit and debit cards is fraud protection. If your debit card is compromised, your responsibility for fraudulent charges is virtually unlimited. However, if you report a lost or stolen credit card, you will typically be held only partially accountable, if at all.
4. Don’t Shop on Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi networks can be accessed by anyone. That’s certainly convenient, but it’s also a huge security risk. Hackers can use public Wi-Fi networks to hijack your device, stealing any information that they please.
As a rule of thumb, never conduct a transaction while connected to public Wi-Fi. It also doesn’t hurt to secure your own wireless network, either.
5. Be Private on Social Media
The security questions to your financial accounts tend to share some common ground with the information available on your social media accounts, such as your date of birth, pets’ names, town of residence and more.
The less personal information you share with the world, the better. Controlling who is able to see your social media profiles can offer more identity theft protection than you may think.
6. Protect your Passwords
The average password is not nearly secure enough to survive even a halfhearted hacking attempt. And since most people use the same password for all of their accounts in order to easily remember it, a hacker only needs to crack one to gain access to the rest.
Use a different, secure password for each account you have. If you think you’ll have trouble remembering all of them, try out a password manager.
7. Update your Antivirus Software
Running outdated antivirus software is basically the same as running no antivirus software at all. Since hackers work around the clock to create new schemes that bypass even the toughest antiviruses and firewalls, security engineers have to play catchup. So when you’re prompted to update your cybersecurity software, do it.
8. All Devices are Equal
It’s a common misconception that mobile devices and tablets are safer than desktop and laptop computers. Treat all of your devices as if they’re equally vulnerable to security threats, because they are.
As you make your purchases and returns this holiday season, keep these identity theft protection tips in mind. Nothing ruins the holidays quite like credit card fraud!