Autumn is here, and for many people, that means an uptick in online shopping activities. Unfortunately, it also means an increase in the risk of identity theft and credit card fraud. Identity theft affects about 10 million people each year, according to the credit bureau Transunion – that’s about 19 people every minute. To avoid becoming one of those statistics, we’ve compiled a quick list of five easy tips to keep you safe when you’re shopping online this holiday season, or any time of the year:
- Keep a close eye on your credit card accounts. Most people only glance at their accounts once a month when the bill arrives – and some don’t even do that. To identify fraud activity as soon as possible, check your accounts at least a few times a week, and consider setting fraud alerts for charges over a certain amount of money. Most cards let you set the alerts right online so you can easily remove them if you plan on making a big purchase, then reset the alert once the purchase is made.
- Beware of hotspots. Sure, it might be convenient to do your shopping while sipping a latte in a local coffee shop, but public hotspots can be especially vulnerable to identity thieves who sue the public connections as a way to steal your credit card information. To avoid these risks, shop at home and be sure your own connection has security enabled.
- Know your vendors. If you receive a special offer for discount shopping in your email or if you find a product you like on a site with which you’re not familiar, do your research before handing over your credit card number. Ideally, you want to stick with known shopping sites when buying online, but if you’ve found a new site, do a search for reviews before making a purchase to avoid headaches later.
- Ask your card issuer if they provide virtual account numbers. These temporary numbers are valid for a short period of time and only for the amount you specify. They can be an ideal solution for shopping at unfamiliar websites or any time you don’t want to give out your real account number.
- Beware of codes. Saving money is great, but beware of clickable code links since they may contain malicious spyware. Instead, stick with known coupon sites like Ebates.com, RetailMeNot.com and CouponCabin.com.
Online shopping is super convenient, and when you follow these tips, it can be a lot safer, too.