Why deal with crowds, long lines and parking when you can shop online? Although it’s easier and less stressful, be careful to guard your personal information. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft impacts nearly 10 million people each year.
What are cyber-criminals looking for? They are looking for your personal information – date of birth, Social Security number, account numbers, etc. They use this information to open bank accounts, obtain loans and acquire credit cards. You then become responsible for the debts they rack up in your name.
Here are 5 tips to protect your money from online scams:
1- Verify the validity of urgent emails or texts before responding, opening an attachment or clicking on a link.
Cyber-criminals use social engineering to trick you to lower your guard. They encourage you to reveal personal information or open links which gain access to your personal information stored on your computer or mobile device. Click here to learn more about social engineering.
2- Use reputable sites when shopping online.
Some sites look legitimate because they copy a reputable company – check for misspellings or extra characters in the URL. Before paying, verify the URL begins with “HTTPS,” not just “HTTP.”
3- Setup a separate email to use for online shopping.
Many retailers require an email when setting up an account. In this way, they send you information about your order AND also send you marketing emails which can easily fill up your inbox. Unfortunately with some retailers, when you opt out of marketing emails you also opt out from receiving information about your order. By having a separate email, you can easily identify online scams (e.g., phishing emails) while also keeping your personal email clutter-free.
4- Use your credit card for online purchases.
In this way, you can easily monitor fraudulent charges by reconciling your monthly statement. Do NOT use your debit card. If a cyber-criminal gains access to your debit card, your money is gone. With a credit card, you can contact customer service and report fraudulent charges. The credit card company will then put your charges on hold – i.e., you will not be responsible for the fraudulent charges. If you are switching from using your debit card to using your credit card, be sure to pay-off your credit card balance every month to avoid financing charges.
5- Decline storing your credit card information on retail websites.
Opt for inputting the information every time you purchase from that website. In this way if a cyber-criminal hacks into a retail website, your information will not be compromised.
Identity theft is a reality. Be smart with your personal information. Click here to follow us on Twitter for financial tips every Tuesday.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Niv Persaud, CFP®, CDFA™, CRPC®, is the Founder of Transition Planning & Guidance, LLC. Her firm bridges the gap between financial planning and coaching. As a Transition Consultant, she offers sage advice in all aspects of life – financial, personal and professional. Niv does not manage money and does not sell financial products. Her services include spending plan development, divorce financial review, life strategy and professional progression. Niv actively gives back to her community through her volunteer efforts. She believes in living life to the fullest by cherishing friendships, enjoying the beauty of nature and laughing often — even at herself. Her favorite quote is by Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I used everything you gave me’.”