Safe Holiday Shopping

111814-holidayshoppingDid you catch the series on secure holiday shopping on NBC Washington (Channel 4) last week? Consumer reporter Erika Gonzalez shared some great tips and information from experts about keeping your credit card and personal information as you shop this holiday season.

We talk a lot about security and identity protection on the Tech Talk blog, and we wanted to make sure you heard the highlights of Channel 4’s reporting.

Gonzalez shared a scary statistic from the Secret Service: Breach investigations are up 54 percent since 2013 – that’s 691 investigations. You’ve heard about the big ones, like security breaches at Target and Home Depot, but it’s a little scary to think that there are many more smaller breaches that don’t get major media coverage. How can you protect yourself?

The Secret Service told NBC4 that consumers should follow these tips:

  • Use only one credit card for all of your holiday shopping. This keeps your transactions in once place and makes it easier to monitor your spending and watch for unusual activity.
  • Set up alerts with your credit card company. You’ll be notified when purchases are being made with your card. You’ll know right away when something unauthorized happens.
  • Change the passwords on your online shopping and banking accounts now – and then do it again immediately after the holidays. (Read our tips for creating strong passwords.)

What else can you do to protect yourself? If you’re a regular reader of our Tech Talk blog, the solutions are going to sound familiar to you.

Beware the phishing or scam email.

Every year, McAfee security lists its 12 Scams of Christmas, and this year phishing tops the list. Phishing is the act of trying to get your personal or financial information through an email that looks legitimate but isn’t. This time of year, be skeptical of shipping notification emails. We know you’ll be shopping online over the next few weeks, and you’re likely to get a lot of these types of emails.

Protect yourself by not clicking on email links – rather, manually type in the URL you want to access.

Read more about phishing and how you can spot it here: http://www.pnsolutions.net/protect-yourself-from-phishing-scams/.

Be careful shopping online.

Gonzalez interviewed Harold Schmidt, former U.S. cyber-security czar, on staying secure while shopping online. Schmidt echoed the phishing tip above, and shared these other ideas:

  • Download store apps for coupons and advertising rather than using email. Apps are more secure, he said.
  • Avoid typing in your credit card number and information. Rather, he says, use services like PayPal, ApplePay, or Google Wallet. They provide an extra layer of protection.
  • Make sure the website you’re shopping at is secure. How can you tell? The web address, or URL, may appear green, and it will begin with https rather than http. Also, look for a little padlock icon next to the URL. A locked padlock tells you the site is secure.
  • Download the Symantec Validation and ID Protection (VIP) app. The app features 6-digit codes that change every 30 seconds. The codes are entered when you use certain online shopping accounts. The app is free.
  • Watch who’s looking over your shoulder – especially when you’re using mobile devices like phones and tablets in public.

Watch the whole “Safe & Secure Holiday Shopping” series here:

And learn more about protecting your identity in these Tech Talk posts:

Got questions about online security? Give us a call today!

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