Guest Post By: Christine DiGangi
Consumers and identity thieves love online shopping for the same reason: convenience. But many of the things we do to save time when shopping also make it easier for someone to steal our personal information or credit card data. While there’s no way to totally avoid the risk of identity theft when shopping online – other than not doing it – there are a few things you can do to protect your personal information from being compromised.
Online Shopping? How to Protect Your Identity and Your Wallet
Avoid Public WiFi
The ease of connecting to public WiFi is exactly why you shouldn’t use it, especially when you’ll be entering personal information on a website. Hackers can connect to public signals and eavesdrop on what other users are doing, and you can’t be sure you’re connected to a legitimate network in the first place. Using relatively inexpensive equipment, hackers can send out a signal that appears to be a public network (no pass code to join, of course), and if you connect, they can intercept your activity.
Choose Safety Over Convenience
Don’t make it easy for someone to steal your information. Here are some internet safety tips to consider in addition to those we’ve already mentioned: Don’t store your credit card information with a retailer or in your browser, use two-factor authentication when available, use strong passwords and limit your online shopping to trusted retailers who prioritize protecting their customers’ information.
Use Credit – Not Debit – When You Pay
First of all, if someone steals your debit card information to make a fraudulent person, that translates into real money missing from your checking account. Even if you get it back, those missing funds could cause you other problems, like overdraft fees or not having enough money to pay other bills (which could lead to late fees or missed payments on your credit report). You can’t be sure your payment information won’t be stolen if you enter it online, but you can limit your losses from fraud by using credit cards instead of debit cards. With a credit card, the fraud doesn’t immediately hit your bank account.
Credit cards also have better fraud protections than debit cards, and the most you’ll have to pay out of pocket for credit card fraud is $50. Consumers have no liability for card-not-present credit card fraud (like the kind that occurs online), but with debit cards, the longer unauthorized activity goes unreported, the more it can cost you.
Watch Out for Signs of Fraud
Protecting your identity and your money from fraud goes beyond your choices while shopping. According to the 2016 identity fraud report from Javelin, a research firm focused on retail and small business banking, the advent of EMV chips on U.S. credit cards has led to a spike in new-account fraud. Because EMV makes it harder for fraudsters to abuse existing credit card accounts, it has become a more popular option to use stolen personal information to create fraudulent accounts. New-account fraud was up 113% from 2014 to 2015, according to the report.
You can spot new-account fraud by regularly reviewing your credit reports for trade lines you don’t recognize. A sudden drop in your credit scores is also a sign of fraud, so in addition to keeping an eye on your existing bank account activity, it’s a good idea to routinely check your credit scores, as well.
About the Author:
Christine DiGangi is a reporter and the social media editor for Credit.com, covering a variety of personal finance topics. Her writing has been featured on USA Today, MSN, Yahoo! Finance and The New York Times International Weekly, among other outlets. You can find her on Twitter @writingbikes.