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How to Prevent Holiday-Related Online Identity Theft

by BROOKE GOLD HASSON | Nov 25, 2013
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Identify theft is always a problem no matter what time of the year it is.  The holidays are an even more enticing time for criminals to try to steal your information when you are less likely to have your guard up since you are busy shopping for good deals.  What’s worse- our guard is down when we are sitting in our home in our pajamas shopping online and thinking that  this is a lot safer than being at the mall.  

What exactly is identity theft? Identity theft is a crime in which someone steals key pieces of your personal and financial information in order to impersonate you and get goods and services.    An alarming rate of people are telling too much information to too many people!

A recent survey by IDentity Theft 911 found that 21 percent of online shoppers would provide their mother’s maiden name in order to make a purchase; 14 percent would provide a family member’s birthday. And even though the number was small, 2 percent would give out their Social Security number.  NEVER give out your social security number when shopping online.

While new scams are being thought up daily, People’s Trust has compiled some of the scams that are out there and ways to help protect you are your family.  Take a look at the scams and ways to protect yourself below. 

1. Bogus websites that claim to have ‘too good to be true deals’ 
It’s a holiday tradition — identity thieves create bogus sites with beautiful graphics and amazingly low prices on popular, but non-existent digital devices.  It doesn’t have to stop there.  Recently I found my grandmother found a website for Louis Vuitton purses for only $200.00.  I asked her how she thought these $1000+ bags were so incredibly marked down and that it was definitely a scam.   After much arguing she finally agreed it probably was.  Lesson learned: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.   If you take the bait you won’t get your merchandise and the criminals will have your credit card number and other personal information.

Protect yourself: Do your homework. If this is your first interaction with a new merchant, check them out before you provide any personal information. How long have they been around? Are they rated by the Better Business Bureau? Beware of prices that are significantly cheaper than everywhere else. It could be a trap.

2. Digital greeting cards loaded with merry malware
It’s always fun to receive holiday eCards from friends and family. Identity thieves send out seasonal greetings, too. But theirs are loaded with viruses and other malware. Their spambots use social media sites to send booby-trapped greeting cards that make it look like they’re from someone you know.

Protect yourself: Don’t click the links in the body of an email alerting you to an eCard and don’t open any attachment. You can always check to see if that person really did send you a card. The safest way to get an eCard is to go to the greeting card company’s site and put in the card number listed in the email.

3. Bogus shipping notices
If you shop online and are expecting a package, a shipping notice doesn’t seem that unusual. That’s why the bad buys send out bogus shipping alerts designed to look like they’re from FedEx, UPS or the U.S. Postal Service. They’re hoping you’ll click on the link, which loads malware onto your machine or takes you to a phishing website they’ve created.

Protect yourself: Only use tracking numbers provided to you in the initial email you get right after you make the purchase. Go to the store’s website to track any packages you’re expecting.

4. Fake Black Friday or Cyber Monday ads
It’s always fun to see the leaked ads for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s why scammers create fake leaked ads. They contain links that direct you to a fraudulent website that installs malware.

Protect yourself: Stick with reputable sites that specialize in Black Friday ads. Some of the better known sites are:  bfads.netblackfriday.comblackfriday.gottadeal.com and dealnews.com.

5. Make sure the online site you are shopping on is secure 
If you’re going to shop online make sure the site is secure. According to the Better Business Bureau, sites that have technology to secure transactions will have “https” instead of “http” in the Web address of the page that asks for credit card information. Another way to tell if the site is secure is if you see an icon of a locked padlock, which usually can be found at the bottom of the screen.   If the site is not secure, consider purchasing elsewhere.  Better safe than sorry.   It’s also helpful to get recommendations from friends and family who have had positive experiences from stores they have shopped with online.

6. Check your credit card and banking statements often 
The best way to spot a problem is to look for it. And that means going through your bank and credit card statements each month — more often, once a week or so, if you have online access.“Look at the charges. Are they exactly what’s on the receipt? If there’s something on there that you don’t recognize, call the bank or credit card company right away,” said Julie Springer, a vice president at TransUnion.

Disclaimer: Security experts agree that you can’t prevent identity theft. There are simply too many opportunities for the bad intentioned to steal your personal information. But you can reduce your risk.  These are some credible ways People’s Trust believes you can reduce your risk but it is not a guarantee that your identity will not be stolen.  

This Blog is sponsored by:
People’s Trust Insurance Company