Cybersecurity Insight

Three Ways To Avoid Identity Theft This Holiday Season

18 Dec

The holiday season is in full swing. We’re normally not prepared for it, and we scramble to gather ourselves. After Thanksgiving, when most people begin their holiday shopping, it’s common to charge out to local stores and make extravagant purchases. Despite the ability to purchase items in local stores, many people use the online marketplace to complete their holiday shopping.

Shopping online often offers a lower price point, but mostly offers shoppers the convenience of shopping at home while avoiding large crowds at stores and malls. One problem that can occur with online shopping, though, is the dreaded identity theft.

We’ve been talking nonstop about cyber attacks and hacks throughout 2015, and we do so because it’s important for everyone to understand what’s going on in the world today and how to be more diligent.

The holiday shopping season is a time when hackers and cyber thieves lurk in the Internet shadows waiting to steal sensitive consumer information. Here are three ways you can avoid the dreaded identity theft this holiday season.

Purchase Only From Trusted Websites

“Have you shopped here before?” is a question you can ask yourself when you’re about to make a purchase from an e-retailer. Of course, stores like or have security measures in place to help mitigate cyber attacks and information theft. However, some ‘smaller’ websites may not have the same safeguards in place.

One easy way to ensure that your information is being securely transferred when making a purchase is looking the green ‘lock’ symbol in the address bar of the website or the checkout page. This tells us that the website employs an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate means there is encryption in place when your credit card or personal information is being sent from the page you’re on to the database or payment gateway. You can also look out for any “seals” at the bottom of a website as well as the “Google Trusted Store” icons.

Don’t Give Out Your Information Via Email

A popular phishing scheme during the holiday season is to send emails to consumers that request credit card or other personal information. They mask themselves as customer service representatives of certain organizations or from places you may have purchased an item from. The e-mail may ask you for additional details, or say that the information you entered was incomplete and that you need to send it again to complete the order.

What will seem harmless to you is often the worst kind of cyber crime. They’ll make it seem like they are doing you a favor by contacting you and asking for more details, and making it “easy” for you by simply sending back an e-mail with your information.

If you receive an email such as this, it’s always best to call the company from which you purchased and ask if they need additional information from you. Never, ever, send your information over e-mail.

Insert Your Credit Card Over Swiping

Most credit card companies have now moved over to the “chip”. It’s the gold square on the front of your credit or debit card. This method is inherently more secure than the traditional magnetic strip on the back of your card. Many businesses offer both methods, since some people do not have new cards with the chip quite yet. However, if you are one of the lucky ones that does have the chip on the front of your card, it is in your best interest to use it whenever possible.

Major retailers like Target and Home Depot (both victims of recent cyber attacks) have implemented point-of-sale devices that accept credit cards with the embedded chip. When shopping, make sure to ask the person at the checkout if they have this option available.

Common Sense Goes A Long Way

At the end of the day, using common sense is the best protection against identity theft. If something looks or seems fishy, it probably is. Also, it never hurts to ask or make a phone call to a company before making a purchase if you think something is up. The few minutes of possible inconvenience are totally worth it when compared to the anguish and years of frustration an identity theft can cause.