With the holiday season just around the corner, chances are we will all do some online shopping at one point. Bear in mind, however, the need to keep your personal information secure from the growing number of hackers that want to steal your money or your identity. Below are six cybersecurity tips to use during the holidays and beyond to ensure your personal information is protected.
Never use public WiFi for online purchases
Generally, local WiFi hotspots do not encrypt data. What this means is that it is MUCH easier for bad guys to hack into these networks to steal your information. In addition, it is very common for hackers to set up their own WiFi hotspots that appear to be legitimate by giving their network a name similar to the local establishment. For instance, they may simply name theirs ‘Airport WiFi’ (when the legitimate hotspot is ‘Dulles International WiFi’). Once you’re in, they not only can view every keystroke you make, but can infiltrate other data on your device.
Check every credit card statement
While using a credit card is the only smart way to make online purchases, equally important is the need to review your credit card statement each and every time. Check for unknown or suspicious charges. If you’re unsure about a purchase, immediately contact your credit card company to get additional details. The credit card company will proceed with investigating the charge.
Take other proactive steps to protect your card and banking information. For instance, sign up for notifications (emails or texts) that indicate each time a purchase is made using your card. Devote a single credit card to online purchases. If the card gets hacked and requires replacement, you’ll avoid the need to update any auto payments (like utility bills, etc.) that you may have set up using that card.
Use only websites that you trust
Fake stores exist that lure people into sharing their financial and personal information. However, there are ways to determine if a website is trustworthy. First, trust your instincts. If a website appears disreputable, it probably is. For instance, if the URL is a weird address (e.g., something other than .com, or a variation of a legitimate URL, like www.amazoncom.com) or fills your screen with pop-up ads, don’t even bother with it. Legitimate websites that have purchase forms for you to complete should have a lock () as well as ‘https’ (not just http) in the URL; these indicate that your information (name, address, phone, credit card, etc.) is sent securely.
An obvious red flag is when a website has grammatical errors; this is a clear indication that you’re dealing with a fake website. Of course, the old saying holds: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. In other words, if you find deals much cheaper than you’d expect, the products are likely to be stolen or counterfeit if they exist at all.
Secure your devices
It has become necessary to protect every device that accesses the Internet, particularly those that are used to make online purchases this holiday season. Be sure to change your passwords regularly. Perform regular updates to the Internet browsers you use. Make sure each device has anti-virus software and that you’ve installed the latest version.
Members Choice Credit Union is a cooperative, non-profit association serving the Ashland, KY community, and dedicated to the motto: “People Helping People.” We encourage thrift among our members, offer fair and reasonable interest rates, and allow members to use and control their own money on a democratic basis in order to improve their economic and social condition. Contact us at 606-326-8000 to review your financial services needs. Visit us online. Please also follow us on Facebook.