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Keep Your Identity Safe This Holiday Season

Ah yes. The Holiday Season is upon us and that means decorating our homes, holiday parties, and of course fighting crowds to pick out that perfect gift for our loved one. Alternatively, for some, it might mean getting cozy on the couch with a cup of coffee, browsing great deals, and adding items to their shopping cart! Whether you prefer to brave the malls or relax at home while you finish up your Holiday Shopping, now is the time to be extra cautious with your finances and personal banking information.

Why? The modern-day Scrooge can attack under many forms this holiday season, including using phishing scams to gather juicy information; worse, your identity could be stolen all together in some more severe cases where thieves are highly skilled and have the resources to do so.

How can you focus on enjoying the Holiday Season while protecting your identity?

Consider These Key Security Tips

Always Check Shopping Websites are Legitimate

Did you know that a study shows 40% of online shoppers don’t verify first to see if a website is secure before browsing?
This is a big mistake and one that is entirely avoidable. Before entering a website to shop, look for signs that indicate whether that website is in fact secure, by confirming whether the site is “https” in the web address and if there is an icon of a locked padlock to the left of the listed URL.

Be on the lookout for phishing scams as well. These are often disguised through promotional links that are redirected to an altered link – typically with minimal changes to trick the user. These scams are designed to trick you into providing personally identifiable information such as your email, password, and credit card details; which will typically then be used to compromise your identity.

Confirm You Are Using a Secure Network

When possible, stay away from using a public Wi-fi connection while you are doing your online shopping. Private information that is transferred over the Internet or saved on your electronic devices such as your Social Security Number, banking information, etc. could be susceptible to exposure if the network being used isn’t secure. To help combat this possibility, it is wise to install and use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. When you connect with public Wi-Fi, a VPN will direct online activity through a secure, private network.

Always keep in mind that your phone or laptop acts as the perfect entryway to your private personal information, so keeping such details protected through strong passwords is imperative. All passwords should contain numbers, letters, and symbols to ensure they are difficult to crack.

Watch What You Share Online

Over-sharing can be a problem in certain circumstances and with social media engulfing many of us, it’s easy to do if you aren’t careful. Sharing your child’s name, birthday or holiday plans you have as a family, could result in thieves lurking on your “friend” list to obtain valuable information to help them hack into your account. Similarly, they may discover when and for how long you’ll be away visiting family over the holidays, providing them with the perfect opportunity to attempt a home break-in.

When Possible, Opt for Credit Card Over Debit

Credit cards offer additional protection against fraudulent acts because credit card companies normally keep an eye on questionable activity and can block fraudulent purchases from happening in the first place. Debit cards, on the other hand, can pose some risks because money is withdrawn immediately from your bank account at the time of the transaction; thus, reduces the level of protection you have against fraud.

Take Advantage of Security Tools

Take full advantage of protection tools available to you, such as ID theft alerts, signing up for an identity theft protection company plan, requesting new chip cards, etc. Each of these provides you with that extra protection that you as a consumer deserves.

Be Careful When Opening New Retail Credit Accounts

Several retail stores promote incentives and discounts to those who open a store credit card account, but it’s vital that shoppers remain wary throughout the entire enrollment process still. For example, you may be asked to provide your Social Security number or other personal data when a new account is opened. Check that no one is watching over your shoulder when completing this information and always ask the sales associate how your information will be disposed of after details are saved into their computer system.

If you receive promotional offers through email that seem too good to be true, they probably are. You’ll want to make sure these offers are valid and trustworthy prior to offering up any personal information about you.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Watch for devices attached to card readers or ATMs that could be in place to obtain your financial information. Also, be aware of anyone behind you while making a transaction. Hopefully, you’ll never have to encounter such a scenario, but sadly lineups at the cash register can give an individual who is motivated to do so, the chance to snap a picture of your pin, credit card number, or other personal information if you aren’t careful.

Keep a Close Eye on Statements and Credit Reports

Make a conscious effort to go through each credit card statement and credit report regularly. This is especially critical throughout the holiday season where shopping levels are at an all-time high. Stay alert and investigate any red flags or suspicious activity you notice right away. In doing so, you will hopefully catch any attack attempts before things escalate to a more serious level.

From all of us at Security Shredding New Jersey, we wish you a wonderful and safe Holiday Season! Remember to practice the above steps to ensure you’re doing everything possible to stay protected over the Holidays.

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