One-third of shoppers plan to do all or most of their holiday shopping online this year and 71% of online holiday shoppers are concerned about identity theft, according to a new survey conducted online by Harris Poll and commissioned by LifeLock.
When asked about things that would ruin their holidays most, 50% of Americans said it would be getting their identity stolen; 22% said not being able to share the holidays with family and friends due to unforeseen issues; 17% said not being able to afford presents for their family and friends; and 11% said none of these situations would ruin their holiday season.
While identity theft is a real threat to consumers, it doesn’t have to ruin your holidays, according to Paige Hanson, LifeLock’s chief of identity education. “In general, the more you do and share online, the more your risk increases to be a victim of identity theft,” she said. “But there are some simple things you can do to help protect yourself whether shopping online or in stores.”
Here are five suggestions that can go a long way toward preventing identity theft:
1 Keep a low profile. Be careful in giving out your personal information to receive promotions and offers and don’t save your credit card information on retailer websites, just in case the retailer suffers a breach. You should also be sure that emails sent to you with promotional links don’t point back to an altered link, often with one or two letters missing or changed. This could signal a phishing scam, designed to fool you into entering personal information, like your credit card number or your email and password, which may be used to compromise your identity.
2 Look for websites with the green padlock. Ideally, you’re able to do all of your online shopping with familiar brands that you already trust. When visiting any website, look for two signs that help indicate that the site is secure: an icon of a locked green padlock on the left side of the URL, and “https” in the Web address. Upon checkout, do not submit your account information if the site does not also ask for the CVV2 security code on the back of your card.
3 Pay with a credit card … or online/mobile payment. Credit cards provide more protection when it comes to fraudulent activity. You’re not held responsible for unauthorized credit card purchases (beyond, in some cases, a $50 fee), but a thief armed with your stolen debit card could wipe out your entire bank balance, at least until an investigation is completed. Even better, use an online or mobile payment service such as Apple Pay, Android Pay or PayPal.
4 Don’t use public Wi-Fi – free or paid. Use your cellular network instead. No matter how trusted the source, don’t shop via a public or unsecured Wi-Fi network – you have no idea who may be lurking on it. And that includes paid Wi-Fi in airplanes and hotels as well. Even a password-protected Wi-Fi network is only as safe as the other users. A more secure option is to use your phone’s cellular network, either on the device itself or as a hot spot for your laptop. Remember that your phones and computers are also gateways to your personal information, so make sure they are password-protected.
5 Watch your accounts closely. During high-volume shopping periods like the holiday season, do a weekly recap of your purchases and check your bank and credit card statements for unfamiliar charges or activity. Better yet, set up text and email alerts to keep track of your transactions. And make it a habit to update your account passwords with unique ones.