While it gets easier and more convenient to complete all your holiday shopping from your computer or phone, it also makes shoppers more susceptible to fraud, identity theft, and various scams. Though fraudsters and scam artists are active year-round, online shoppers are especially vulnerable to their crimes during the busy holiday season. According to a recent survey, cybercrime will generate at least $1.5 trillion this year.*

First Bank recommends following these tips to keep your holidays merry and bright – and your financial information safe – as you do your shopping:

  • Shop safely. Before shopping online, verify that the site uses secure technology. Once you’ve reached the checkout screen, or while shopping an e-commerce site, make sure the web address begins with https. The ‘s’ on the end of the https actually stands for secure. Another way to confirm a trustworthy shopping website is the inclusion of a tiny, locked padlock icon in the address bar.
     
  • Secure your Internet connection. This is just as important when shopping online at home using your own Wi-Fi connection as it is when shopping online using your mobile device while out and about. At home, be sure to protect your home wireless network with a strong password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, only connect to WPA2 networks – however, shoppers should still be cautious about the information being sent using this public Wi-Fi. Keep in mind that any information shared or accessed while on public Wi-Fi networks is not secure. Don’t complete any banking transactions while connected to a public network.
     
  • Set strong passwords and enable Two Factor Authentication when possible. Strong passwords include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Much like your debit cards PIN, keep this safe and don’t give out your password freely. Do not use the same password for multiple accounts requiring a password. Avoid using obvious things like parts of your name or hometown.

    To keep your passwords safe and to remember them all, you can write them down and keep them in a secure place (don’t put them on a spreadsheet on your computer, then put it in the Cloud), use a trusted password manager (an online storage locker of sorts), or enable Two Factor Authentication (2FA). 2FA is an additional security layer for logging in to various websites. 2FA is similar to shopping at a store and using a credit card, then having the cashier also require you to produce your photo ID. Factor one is the normal routine of entering your username and password. Factor two is an additional step you must take to get access into your account – usually proving to the site that you are indeed the one signing in. For example, when 2FA is enabled, the second factor may send you a text message to the phone number you provided. That way, if an imposter has your username and password, the text message sent to you would not only keep them out of your account, but would also alert you that fraudulent activity has been detected on your account.
     
  • Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. One of the best defenses against viruses, malware, ransomware, and other online threats is by keeping your devices and web browsers up to date with the latest security software and updates. Turn on automatic updates to download up-to-date fixes as soon as they become available. Use caution when downloading apps – always certify any “permissions” are necessary to the functionality and use of the app. Don’t store sensitive information like PINs or passwords on your mobile device.

Stop hackers and scam artists from dashing your holiday fun and take these measures to safeguard your data.

*Source: Dr. Michael McGuire – Senior Lecturer of Criminology at the University of Surrey, UK.