Millions of Americans will steer clear of the long checkout lines and crazy parking lots this year and opt to complete their holiday shopping online in the comfort of their own homes. As online holiday purchases continue to increase, it is important for consumers to protect themselves against online identity theft. Identity theft can include misuse of your name, address, Social Security number, or financial account number(s).
If your identity is stolen, remember that identity theft protection and resolution services may be included in your homeowners or auto insurance policies. Many times, the service provides you with a fraud specialist to assist and guide you through the process of restoring and protecting your identity. Read your homeowners or auto policy for further details.
Protect your financial information while shopping online with these handy tips:
Use a credit card. Unauthorized credit card charges are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act, with liability typically limited to the first $50 in charges.
Use only secure sites. If entering financial information, verify the website is secure. Many times a secure site will have a URL that starts with "https," with "s" indicating the site is secure. Don't click on or reply to pop-up messages.
Don't email. Financial information such as bank account, credit card or Social Security number should not be emailed.
Keep documentation. Save records of online purchases by printing receipts and email confirmations. When the credit card bill arrives, review it carefully to confirm the charges are legitimate.
Know the seller. Verify the contact information, such as the physical address and phone number in the event there is a problem with your purchase.
A few other ways to avoid identity theft include:
Minimize the personal information you carry. Keep the amount of personal information in your purse or wallet to the bare minimum. Avoid carrying additional credit cards, your social security card or passport unless absolutely necessary.
Monitor your accounts. Do not rely on your credit card company or bank to alert you of suspicious activity. Carefully monitor your bank and credit card statements to make sure all transactions are accurate. If you suspect a problem, contact your credit card company or bank immediately.
Review your credit report. You may request a free report once every 12 months. Click here to request your free annual credit report.