A stolen identity is something no one wants to unwrap this holiday or any other time. Consumers are especially nervous in the wake of the Equifax data breach, according to a consumer survey conducted by Generali Global Assistance in October that revealed 75 percent of American shoppers are concerned about having their identity stolen during this holiday season.
In this blog post, I will share some simple things you can do to stay safe this holiday season while shopping online on Cyber Monday or any other time.
Here are our cyber Monday safety tips:
Monitor your accounts
If there was ever a time to be watching your financial accounts, it’s now. Be sure you’ve really made every purchase that shows up. If you’re uncertain about something, don’t simply shrug your shoulders and assume your spouse made the purchase or that you forgot.See if your banking institution or credit card company offers an alert system for when purchases are made. Some banking apps, like Bank of America, even allow you to turn on mobile notifications that can help you keep track. You might also consider using just one credit card to make purchases so if something goes awry, only one card has been compromised rather than multiple. Consider using cash — likely the safest option of all.
Check out as a guest when you can
When purchasing items online, try to check out as a guest whenever possible so that the site doesn’t store your information. Yes, it might take a little more time, but it’s worth it in light of the all the big box data breaches over the last few years.
Use a unique password AND username for each site
If you can remember your password, chances are it sucks when it comes to security. The best passwords are long and random; a passphrase is even better (visit this post to learn how to create a strong passphrase). And while you might be used to hearing the advice about passwords, you might not know that usernames are important as well. Even using StoreName+YourName is better than just your name. Whatever you do, don’t reuse passwords across sites. If you do, and one site is breached, hackers would be able to then access more of your accounts.
Beware of phishing emails
Experts, like Bob Bunge, a cybersecurity specialist and engineering professor at DeVry University, who was interviewed for a Consumer Affairs story about online shopping identity theft risks, says phishing attacks are more rampant on Cyber Monday for the simple reason that people are more likely to fall for it on a day when screaming good deals are commonplace. A $5 blender? Any other time of the year you might be skeptical but in the post-Thanksgiving shopping blitz, it’s somewhat believable. Bottom line? Don’t click on links sent in an email, instead, type the address directly into your web browser. There are plenty of bogus websites out there posing as leading e-commerce retailers. Be sure you are actually on Walmart’s website, and not some imposter, before inputting credit card information or any other sensitive info. Be sure the URL begins with https and includes the lock sign, signaling that it’s encrypted. Bad web design and glaring spelling errors are other indicators something isn’t right.
Think twice before making a purchase using your mobile device or while on a wireless connection
Why should you think twice before hitting “buy” on your iPhone? According to RSA, a computer and network security company, the number of fraud attempts on mobile users increased 173 percent between 2013 and 2015.
And whatever you do, don’t make purchases while using public WiFi. It might seem harmless, but using a WiFi hotspot — either paid or free — is anything but. Instead, they are an easy target for hackers since they’re unsecured or often have shared passwords. The hackers most often strike with what’s called a Man In The Middle Attack, where they watch your data in transit, or maybe they set up a rogue WiFi hotspot with an enticing “FREE FAST WiFi” name (or an evil twin name that’s very similar to one that is legit) and then watch the data you send and collect. Instead, use your phone’s cellular network as a hotspot for your laptop. Some experts, like Bunge, think you should be wary of using wireless even on your home network and recommends placing your order while your computer is hard-wired to the network. To read more about WiFi vulnerabilities and how to protect yourself, read our blog.
Consider using two-step authorization
You can opt to turn on two-factor authentication for all your web services, like email. This is when you try to login to one of your services and it text messages your phone a password that you must type in to enter the site. Even if a hacker has your password, they don’t have access to your phone. Vendors like Amazon, Apple, ebay, and Etsy all offer two-step verification to their customers. Visit twofactorauth.org for a full list of sites that offer this security measure.
Did you know that 15.4 million Americans had their identity stolen last year? With the Equifax breach and dozens of others data breaches this year, security experts agree it’s very likely your personal information has been compromised. Who would you call if you learned your identity had been stolen?
LibertyID is the AAA of identity theft protection, offering the most effective identity theft restoration and protection service. Sign up for an annual subscription and rest easy knowing that if your identity is stolen, we will fix it. There’s no limit to the time or money we will spend restoring your identity to pre-event status. A certified restoration specialist will handle all of the legwork and keep you informed with regular status updates. But just like with AAA, you have to be covered before there’s an incident.