Protect Yourself from Identity Theft During the Holiday Season

By Reginald Garth Financial Wellbeing Coach, Operation HOPE

The holidays are upon us again! Time to deck the halls, plan the trips, fill the stockings, and load up the trees.

It can be a most wonderful time of year but it is also necessary to make sure that with all the spending done during the holidays, you are saving money and saving yourself from stress. Each year, more and more shopping is done online. According to a report on FitSmallBusiness.com, 76% of Americans shop online and mobile shopping (shopping via cell phone) is expected to increase by 56%. In this information age there is a lot of identity theft. You worked hard for your money and you should protect yourself. When shopping online or just shopping in general, here are some tips to help you enjoy the holidays and keep some money in your pocket.

  1. DO NOT USE PUBLIC WI-FI. Never, ever use unsecured networks; these are just open doors for cyber-criminals to get access to your information. If you are at a place that provides Wi-Fi to the public, ask if it is on a secure network. Even your cell phone data plan is more secure than public Wi-Fi.
  2. Pay with alternative payment sources. Your payroll is direct deposited to your bank account and your bank account is linked to your debit card. If you think about it, when you use your debit card to shop, eat at a restaurant, and pay for gas, you are giving up access to where your primary source of income resides. Use alternative methods of payment like PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, and prepaid debit cards. The best part about these is that it can help you manage your funds better and prevent overspending. It also can keep the usage of your credit card down. One very important thing to remember is to never link your bank account to those alternative sources.
  3. Never save your passwords/payment information to a website. It can be easier for you to keep all your information stored on a site that you frequently visit but it can also be easier for cyber-thieves to get to your payment information because it is stored on that site. Enter the information and never save it to that site.
  4. Make sure that the websites you shop are secure. Look for things like a padlock next to the web address. This indicates that the site is secure. Another indicator that a website is secure is if the address starts with https://. You can also check by clicking on the padlock symbol to see if the site has a valid certificate. Should you get a warning about the certificate, leave the site.
  5. Be very aware of links in emails and ads. We all enjoy receiving offers that can help us save money. Many of those offers are very enticing and many of those times, they are too good to be true. Cyber-criminals will create and use these links/ads to get you to click on them and when you do, they will have access to your network and thus having access to your sensitive information. If you do not recognize the URL, do not click on it. In addition to that, contact the company and check to see if the ad is valid.

These are just some of the important tips on how to save yourself from identity theft and from having false information on your credit report. Operation HOPE via the Office of Financial Empowerment is always available to help you with any questions as well as provide you with credit and money management counseling.

Contact me today at 314-613-3196 or reginald.garth@operationhope.org

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