Don’t forget that it was the first three weeks of the 2013 holiday shopping season when hackers stole the data from 40 million credit and debit cards of unsuspecting customers who visited Target stores. In August, the retailer reported the breach It’s also worth keeping in mind the cost to consumers. By May, costs to credit unions and community banks to reissue more than 20 million cards were estimated at $240 million.
In a year that’s seen more than its fair share of data breaches, it’s important to stay vigilant while protecting your online accounts from data thieves. The National Cyber Security Alliance offers the great list of tips below to keep your online identity safe this holiday season. We’ve added a few other tips in addition to protect yourself.
1. Keep a Clean Machine: All the devices you use for shopping ‐ including smartphones and tablets ‐ should have up‐to‐date software including security software, operating systems, programs and apps.
2. When in Doubt, Throw it Out: Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email.
3. Think Before you Act: Be wary of communications that offer amazing deals that sound too good to be true, implore you to act immediately ‐ including those about a problem with an order or payment or ask you to view the website via a provided link.
4. Get Savvy about Wi‐Fi Hotspots: Don’t share personal or financial information over an unsecured network (a connection that doesn’t require a password for access). Using the direct web access on your phone (via a 3G/4G connection) is safer than an unsecured wireless network when on your mobile device.
5. Make Sure the Site is Legitimate: This includes a closed padlock on your web browser’s address bar or a URL address that begins with shttp or https. This indicates that the purchase is encrypted or secured. For new sites, check online reviews.
7. Use Safe Payment Options: Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered. Credit cards may have a limit on the monetary amount you will be responsible for paying. Never send cash through the mail or use a money‐wiring service.
8. Keep a Paper Trail: Save records of your online transactions, including the product description, price, online receipt, terms of the sale, and copies of email exchanges with the seller. Read your credit card statements as soon as you get them to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized charges. If there is a discrepancy, call your bank and report it immediately.
9. This tip comes from Brian Krebs, whose Krebs On Security blog offers vast multitudes of information on identity theft. If you’re racking up credit card “rewards” points take note – some cyber thieves find less robust security on redemption sites. And they’re swooping in to empty them.
10. Be on the lookout for mystery shopper scams playing on the credibility of retail stores this holiday season. If you receive a mysterious check asking you to wire money outside the U.S. – or to give your account information in order to cash it – don’t fall for it.