The rise of online shopping has made life easier for moms everywhere. Now, all of us can comparison shop, get the best deals and read information on products and reviews without ever having to leave the couch. But, that convenience comes with risks. It is now easier than ever to become a victim of identity theft. This problem is only getting worse; identity theft breaches increased 44 percent last year. As the recent Equifax breach showed, no individual or company is safe. Thankfully, there are some simple steps that everyone can take to cut down on the risk of having your identity stolen online. Here are five great tips.
Be Careful Where You Shop
Not every website is created equal, and some websites are significantly less secure than others. If you are shopping on a website that you don’t know well, use extreme caution. For example, every website should begin with “https” – the “s” stands for secure. Other basic security red flags include the website not having a lock icon on the left of the URL (indicating its secure) or your web browser alerting you to the fact that the website having an expired SSL certification. An expired SSL means that hackers can easily grab your credit card information if you make a purchase on that website.
Run a Quick Google Search
One of the many benefits of online shopping is that it gives you the ability to read product reviews. You can also check out if a website is a legitimate one. If you are shopping on a new website and unsure of whether or not it is secure, go over to Google, type in the name of the website and add the word “review” or “scam.” The results that pop up will likely give you reviews from other users as well as news stories and ratings from agencies like the Better Business Bureau or Consumer Reports. Any customer complaints about failed shipping or stolen identities are warning signs that the website in question should be avoided.
Use Strong Passwords
Password theft is one of the easiest ways in which your identity can be stolen. Your password should never be anything obvious like your name, user name or a simple combination of words and numbers like abc123. Avoid creating a password that is common or convenient for you because it will be easy for someone else to guess. Instead, develop a strong password, which consists of a few characteristics. A strong password should have at least eight characters, a random mix of letters and numbers and at least one capital letter and special character, such as an exclamation or question mark.
Keep an Eye Out for Signs You’re Compromised
You should regularly check your credit card and bank statements for purchases you didn’t make and report them right away to your credit card company if you find that to be the case. Many consumers are at risk due to the recent Equifax breach. Furthermore, there are a number of free resources to monitor your personal identity for signs of theft. This includes websites like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma, which allow you to monitor your credit score and receive alerts when a new credit card is opened in your name. Other warning signs include unexplained rejection of credit card applications, unexpected contacts from merchants about password changes and contact from debt collectors about debt you cannot explain or don’t remember.
Protect Your Computer and Smartphone
There are numerous tools which allow you to protect your computer and phone, ensuring that a hacker will not gain easy access. This includes antivirus programs as well as VPN data services, which help to protect your computer from outside hackers and ensure that you can browse the web privately. Furthermore, don’t ignore computer or operating system updates. They often fix critical security flaws.
Online theft is on the rise, and it’s on all of us to use caution when we make a purchase online. Thankfully, taking steps like these and more can help ensure that you can shop safely and securely. The rise in online identity theft doesn’t mean that you have to stop shopping online. It simply means you must use caution. Take the advice above, and enjoy shopping from your couch.