Whether you shop online routinely or infrequently, it will help to follow
some precautions this holiday season as you hunt for bargains. The risk of
identity theft rises as you offer more and more information about yourself
online, so the holiday season is a time to be careful as well as resourceful.
Here are some dos and don'ts.
Don’t use a debit card, and use only one credit card. If you use but one
credit card for all your online shopping, you’ll just have to cancel one card if
your card number is stolen and have just a single credit card firm to deal with.
It would be wise to keep a low credit limit on that particular card. If your
debit card gets hacked, the thieves can go straight to your bank account and
drain it. You know that $50 limited liability common to credit cards? You have
to report identity theft within two days to get that $50 limited liability with
a debit card.1
Some credit card firms give you a really nice option – the choice of creating a
unique, protected online transaction number for each purchase you make over the
Web. So in other words, the retailer you’re buying from doesn’t actually see
your credit card number – just this unique purchase number. In this case, should
your credit card information be stolen, you don’t have to cancel your card, and
the credit card issuer has records of specific transactions that may help catch
the bad guy.2
Do look for the "https://" when you enter personal information. When you
see that, it means you are transmitting data within a secure site. (You’ll see a
padlock symbol at the bottom of the browser window.) Look for the VeriSign or
CyberTrust mark of security.
Do watch what you click – and watch out for fake sites. Pop-ups,
attachments from mysterious sources, dubious links – don’t be tempted to explore
where they lead. Hackers have created all manner of “phishing” sites and online
surveys – seemingly legitimate, but set up to siphon your information. It is
better to be skeptical than to visit a fake PayPal site or to download spyware
that is allegedly Norton Utilities or Panda AntiVirus. If anything seems weird,
Google or Bing or Yahoo the merchant name and see what comes up.
Do protect your PC. When did you install the security and firewall
programs on your computer? Have you updated them recently? Think about buying
the latest and greatest from a credible retailer before you shop online this
season as a present to yourself.
Don’t shop on the job – or if you do, do it after five. If you tell your
boss “But I only have dial-up at home,” how sympathetic is he or she really
going to be? (Of course, if you own a business or work for yourself, no one’s
stopping you.) If for some weird reason you just can’t shop from your PC or Mac
at home, at least make it quick - bookmark the sites you need to visit at lunch
and go there after 5:00pm or during your lunch hour the next day.
Do update stored passwords – and make them really obscure. If you visit a
site a lot, it is a good idea to change your password once in a while. Mix
letters/words and numbers.
Don’t shop using wi-fi. You are really leaving yourself open to identity
theft when you use a public wi-fi connection. Put away the laptop and wait until
you leave that coffee emporium or airport terminal. Yes, hackers can tap into
your Blackberry, iPhone or Smartphone via the same tactics by which they can
invade your PC.
These are the views of Peter Montoya Inc., not the named
Representative nor Broker/Dealer, and should not be construed as investment
advice. Neither the named Representative nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal
advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we
make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not
engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other
expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a
competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further