From gift guides to comparing prices on the hottest websites, online retailers have made holiday shopping easy. One more thing that’s become easy is hackers and thieves stealing personal information. Approximately 17 million Americans become victims of identity theft each year. As shopping increases around the holiday season, it is even more important to stay vigilant. That is why December is Identity Theft Protection Month.
Even if you consider yourself a professional online shopper, a refresher on how to keep your personal information safe can save you a lot of time and frustration. Cyber and financial security is a topic we take seriously at TruWest Credit Union. As fast as security technology changes, thieves and scammers are moving just as quickly. Here are three tips to protect your information as you make purchases online this holiday season.
Tip 1: Stay Clear of Scam Websites
Links within emails, ads and social media can be ways for hackers to phish your personal data. Phishing is a tactic used by scammers to gather personal information through fraudulent online sources. Be cautious when clicking on links. If it doesn’t look legitimate or have an “https” in the URL, avoid it altogether. Alerts can pop up when a website is not considered safe, but even if they don’t, look for the lock symbol next to the URL before you continue to click or input your information. The lock symbol signifies the website has a secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption and keeps your data secure.
Tip 2: Protect Yourself with Passwords
A significant amount of websites we use include some form of account with a login and password. Any website account that saves credit cards and addresses should have secure passwords and that includes ecommerce websites. Passwords between accounts should differ, and changing passwords on a regular basis can help keep those accounts secure. When it comes to saving the credit card information to the account, think twice. It only takes one hack to put your data at risk.
Tip 3: Look at Account Statements
Looking at your banking account statements regularly can help you track and catch any suspicious activity. Utilize tools through websites and apps before receiving the statement in the mail. Checking account statements also includes looking at your credit score. Personal information used by hackers goes beyond credit cards. The sooner the fraudulent charges or actions are found, the easier they are to recover. Setting alerts through your finance apps can be a helpful way to stay on top of suspicious activity.
Even the savviest Internet users can be caught up in a hack or scam. If you are concerned about your personal information being at risk after shopping online or any online activity, contact your financial institution sooner rather than later.
Alan Althouse is the President and CEO of TruWest Credit Union. TruWest Credit Union is headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, and operates as a cooperative to provide its members with a lifetime of quality financial services and a culture of caring for its members, employees and communities. TruWest has more than 88,000 members and assets totaling more than $1 billion. TruWest Credit Union has 13 branch locations—nine in Metro Phoenix and four in Austin, Texas. For more information, visit truwest.org.