Shopping Online? Best Practices to Keep Your Identity Safe

Shopping online is easy and convenient. But don’t forget the possibility of fraud often lurks in Internet nooks and crannies. However, here are a few safety precautions you can implement to be as safe as possible and protect your identity and financial information while shopping online.

Only shop on trustworthy websites.

Shopping online can be addictive.  Who wouldn’t want to shop from home cozy in their pajamas while also saving money?  There are many trustworthy retailer websites out there that are safe to shop on.  However, be weary of clicking on email links or website sidebar ads.  Before checking out your online shopping cart and entering your card information, be sure you are visiting the actual website of the business to ensure it is safe.  If something seems too good to be true, it is probably not a legitimate website.

Don’t shop on public WiFi networks.

Hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops often offer free WiFi.  Trouble can arise though, when sensitive personal or financial information is shared over these public networks.  The open nature of public networks can compromise your financial security.  Public WiFi should always be used with caution – never access your bank accounts, personal data, or shop through a public network.

Protect your computer with anti-virus software and secure your internet access with a password.

Often we assume our home WiFi network is safe.  However, vulnerabilities within our home network can also do a lot of damage.  Safe home networks have a personalized SSID, strong passwords, encryption enabled, and updated anti-virus software.  Computers should also be protected with spyware software.

Shop online only with a credit card or use digital wallet.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends that consumers shop online using a credit card over a debit card, to be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act.  This law allows consumers to dispute charges and withhold payment while under investigation. To read more about which card is safer to use, click here to access our educational guidebook.

For added security, take these preventative measures:

  • Monitor all your accounts through online banking, mobile apps, or monthly statements.
  • Make sure your address, email, and cell phone numbers are updated with your financial institution.
  • Enroll in your smartphone’s digital wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay, which can be used to pay online. Merchants store a token number and not the actual card to authenticate transactions using you fingerprint, phone’s passcode, or face recognition during checkout.
  • If PayPal is a payment option when checking out online, this is another protective solution that doesn’t have your card entered into a retailer’s website. Plus you also have protective disputing power here too.

Ensure the card entry webpage is secure. 

Entering card information online is definitely something you want to be cautious about.  If the retailer’s website is compromised and you paid with a debit card, you may eventually find $0 in your checking account.  When paying online, try to check to make sure you are on a secure website that will protect your personal information.  There are two ways to check to enure you are on a secure site. First, verify the site’s URL begins with https:// and that there is a small lock in the URL bar.  The “s” in the URL indicates you are on a secure website.  You can also hover over the small lock to the right of the web address to read further details about the site’s security.  An unsecured website will often display a small letter “i” that will also offer information about the site’s security when you hover over it.  Never enter card information on an unsecured site.

Print or save receipts as PDFs. 

As an added security measure, it’s good practice to print or save any online purchase receipts as PDF documents.  Compare the saved receipt with your credit card billing statement to confirm accuracy.

Always be careful when shopping online.  If you follow the above security measures, you’ll have a great chance at keeping your sensitive financial information safe.

Article Source: MaryAnne Colucci for LSC.net

Ways to Protect Your Credit Cards

If you’ve ever been a victim of identity theft, you know it’s awful. Between the time it takes to get everything corrected and the stress it causes – it’s definitely a spot you’d like to avoid if you can. Though nothing is fool proof, there are several ways in which you can protect your finances. Here are a few that pertain to keeping your credit card information safe from fraud.

Secure all your cards: If your wallet is ever stolen and you lost every card, think about what a nightmare it would be to have to cancel and replace them all. Really consider this the next time you leave home. Try to only take the cards you absolutely need and keep the rest in a secure location like a safe or locked drawer. Try to also minimize the amount of cash you have on you as well and only bring what you need. This way if your wallet gets lost or stolen, you aren’t literally losing everything.

Pay attention: It might be difficult to keep track of a criminal’s activities in real-time, but you can check on your accounts regularly. Today’s smartphone banking and credit card apps really make it easy and fast to check on all your accounts and look for fraudulent transactions. If you’re keeping track of your spending and looking at your accounts daily, you’ll know the minute something happens that looks out of the ordinary. Checking on your accounts every day also helps you monitor your monthly budget and spending habits too.

Opt for being more high-tech: Have you ever used your smartphone’s digital wallet? Many retailers are set up to take payments via Apple Pay and Google Pay, and it’s very easy to use. EMV chips in your credit and debit cards also make transactions more secure and prevent card skimming as well. When shopping online, if PayPal or your phone’s digital wallet are options for payment over entering your card number – always go that route.

Using the above tips can help protect your financial information and really save you from an identity theft headache. Also be weary when using an ATM or paying for gas at the pump – be sure to check for any skimming devices before inserting your card. If something seems off to you, it probably is. Read about how to spot a skimming device in our guidebook here.

T.H.I.N.K First because There’s Harm In Not Knowing!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

‘Tis the Season (for Holiday Fraud)

The best time of the year is here, but it’s also a time of year when fraud increases too. If you are doing any sort of holiday shopping, be aware of the following scam tactics designed to steal your personal and financial information:

E-Skimming – This is what happens when a scammer gets control of an unsecure link within a website that you may be shopping on. Without even realizing it, you could be redirected to a malicious domain where a skimming code can capture your personal and financial information as you are making your purchase online. Such a skimming code would be sent to a remote server in real time where fraudsters would be collecting all your personal data. This data is often sold and then used to make fraudulent purchases in your name afterward. Before you click on any links in emails or on the web – make sure it’s a secure website (you’ll see an https at the top) and only open emails from trusted sources.

Social Media Scams – Sometimes social media platforms are used to set up a fake online store. The site will feature advertising messages and take payments, but unfortunately you will never receive what you ordered and your financial information may also be compromised in the process. When following a brand on social media, look to see if it’s a verified business (blue check mark in the profile) and look to see their website and contact details, number of followers, and the like. If something seems off or too good to be true, it probably is.

Porch Pirates – This is a big time of year when delivered packages often disappear from the doorstep of unsuspecting homes and businesses. Be sure to track anything ordered as it ships to you, look for a delivery confirmation from the retailer, and try to not leave packages out on your porch for hours on end. If you are going to be away from home when a package is delivered, ask a trusted neighbor or family member to pick it up and hold it for you.

Shipment Update Scam Emails – You may find that a fraudster sends you a fake email that tells you your item failed to deliver and then asks you for updated shipping and contact information. This is a scam! The email may look legit (though you will usually find a fake or unusually long email address with a slightly different domain name), but it often contains a link with malware that will steal your personal information if you click on it. The original retailer has all of this contact information and will not ask you for it again.

Donations to Fake Charities – Scammers know that people love to give back this time of year. A donation scam will often duplicate a charity website and get you to click on a link (which is malware) to donate money. Instead of going to the actual charity, your donation goes right into the pocket of a criminal. Do your research before you donate, ensure the site is legitimate and verified.

Additional steps you can take to help prevent fraud this holiday season:

  • Sign up for transaction alerts to receive emails and/or texts for all your credit and debit cards.
  • Pay careful attention to links in emails and on websites.
  • Try to avoid entering card information into website forms. Instead use PayPal or a digital wallet like Apple or Google Pay when you can.
  • Make sure your home computer and mobile devices have anti-virus protection and a firewall.
  • Only shop on well-known and verified websites when buying online.
  • Go directly to a retailer’s website yourself instead of through a social media ad.
  • Look for skimming devices at the ATM or a gas station pump.
  • Monitor your bank accounts on a daily basis and if you see a purchase that was not made by you, report it to your financial institution right away.

Follow the above tips for an enjoyable, safe, and risk free holiday season. Think First!

Article Source: CUNA Mutual Risk Alert 11/14/19

 

How to Keep Holiday Shopping Happy (and Safe)

Keep your holiday shopping merry and bright with these tips to help you watch your wallet, shop smart, and protect your personal and financial information.

  • Make a list and a budget. Impulse purchases (ahem, gifts for yourself) are less tempting when you have a set plan. Consider how much you’re willing to put on your credit card this holiday season, and how long it will take to pay it off. If money is tighter this year, paying for a gift over time with a layaway option may be a smarter move. Or if you can save up enough cash before you shop, that is an ideal option.
  • Do your research. Read reviews and recommendations about products, the seller, and warranties from trusted sources. If you’re shopping online, read reviews to see if items were never delivered or not as advertised. Are you donating to a charity this holiday season? Look into all the details first to make sure it’s legitimate.
  • Look for the best deals. Check out websites that compare prices for items that you are looking to buy. Be sure to also check out shipping costs for online orders and factor that into your budget. Search for coupon codes by looking up a particular store’s name along with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.” To save extra money later on, keep an eye out for rebates on your purchases.
  • Keep track of your purchases. Make sure you were charged the correct amount, and save all your receipts. If you shop online, keep copies of your order number, the return policy, and shipping costs. Be sure your packages are delivered to a secure location or pick them up at your local store. Gift cards should be treated like cash and stored in a safe place.
  • Don’t give out personal information. Protect yourself online by shopping only on secure websites with an “https” web address. Look to see what shopping apps and websites do with your personal data and how they keep it secure. Avoid any offer, phone call, text message, or email that asks you to give out your personal or financial information – no matter how great it may sound. It is most likely a scam trying to steal your identity and financial data.

Follow these five steps and you won’t have anything to worry about this holiday season (aside from figuring out how long it might take you to wrap up all those great holiday deals you purchased).

Article Source: Gretchen Abraham for consumer.ftc.gov

5 Steps to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

According to a survey done by Bankrate.com, 41 million Americans have been victims of identity theft. Most Americans aren’t taking the necessary steps to protect themselves until it’s too late. For those unfortunate enough to have had firsthand experience, it’s a scary experience that can take years to fix. And in the process, your finances can get destroyed. Before this happens to you, it’s important to take the steps to safeguard yourself from identity theft. Here’s what you should do:

Closely Monitor Your Bank Statements

Most people hardly ever check their credit card or bank statements. If your account information is compromised, you might not even know about it until it’s too late. Be proactive – it’s best to check your statement monthly. You should also make it a habit to log into your accounts at least once a week to review the transactions and see if anything looks off. The earlier you catch any unauthorized transactions, the easier it will be for you to dispute the discrepancies with your financial institution.

Check Your Credit Report Yearly

You are legally entitled to a free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Take advantage of this. Your credit report can change often so it’s important you know what’s going on, especially if you plan on making a large purchase or taking out a significant loan in the near future. AnnualCreditReport.com is a good place to get started. There are many other websites that offer free credit reports, but they may charge you fees after a period of time so be sure to always read the fine print.

Strengthen Your Passwords

We share so much on the internet. Most of us are on at least one social network, if not more. We also depend on the internet to do much of our shopping and banking. While it’s a great convenience, it’s also dangerous as well. Many hackers prey on unsuspecting internet users and shoppers. Before you post something on a social profile, be careful what you share – especially if it contains any personal information. Also, use strong passwords containing a mix of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. You should also periodically change your passwords as well, especially for sensitive accounts such as your email and bank account.

Secure Sensitive Documents

Paper trails can be just as dangerous as digital ones. Keep your sensitive documents in a safe place in your home, ideally in a locked cabinet or safe. If you need to get rid of any documents with sensitive information on it, be sure to shred them beforehand to prevent them from getting into the wrong hands.

Don’t Give Out Personal Information

If something sounds fishy or phishy, it probably is. Don’t fall victim to a phishing scam. If you receive any requests for personal information such as your social security number, don’t give it out – even if it comes from a company you recognize. Scammers disguise themselves as something or someone else all the time. Call the company and speak to a representative first before you give out any information.

The most important thing to remember is to be proactive and vigilant. Identity theft is a real concern but with the right steps, you can prevent it from happening to you.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Enroll in Sherpa identity theft protection from First Financial. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Connie Mei for moneyning.com

How to Prevent Your Child from Becoming a Victim of ID Theft

It probably seems ridiculous to worry about identity theft happening to your children. They don’t have a driver’s license or a credit card in their name – it’s impossible for their identity to be compromised, right?

Wrong. The risk of a minor having their identity stolen is 51 times higher than the risk to an adult. On average, identity theft affects 15 million U.S. residents per year.

Keep reading to learn why minors are considered perfect targets for identity thieves, and how to prevent your child from becoming a victim.

What Kind of Person Would Target a Child?

A smart one. While children lack credit or debit card data that can be stolen, or savings accounts that can be depleted, they do have a credit history that is as clean as a whistle.

Generally, a minor’s credit history is left alone until it is time for them to apply for student or car loans. This gives identity thieves over a decade’s worth of time to target a minor’s information without anyone taking notice.

Then, that exciting bridge into adulthood when your child takes on the responsibility of applying for loans and credit cards is shattered when you realize he or she is denied due to a less than perfect credit history resulting from years’ worth of unpaid debt.

As an adult, you can understand the time it takes to repair a bad credit history. Your child shouldn’t have to go through this “repair phase” when they haven’t done anything to harm their credit in the first place.

Be in the Know – Recognizing the Warning Signs

The following are some tell-tale signs that something is amiss with your child’s identity:

  • Suspicious Preapproved Credit Card Offers Addressed to Your Child If you begin receiving offers for preapproved credit cards in your child’s name, this could be an alert that there may be a credit file associated with your child’s name and social security number.
  • You are Receiving Calls from Collections Agencies If you’re contacted by a collections agency trying to collect debt in your child’s name, it’s a red flag that that their information has been compromised and is being used illegally.
  • Your Attempts to Open a Financial Account for Your Child are Denied If you try to open a student savings account for your child only to realize an account already exists, or the application is denied due to poor credit history – you should take immediate action.

Take a Stand – What to Do if You Suspect Your Child is a Victim of Identity Theft

1. Contact All Three Credit Reporting Agencies

  • Ask that they run a free “Minor Check.” If the check returns no results for your child’s social security number, you can rest easy that no illegal activity is taking place.
  • If the check does return results, ask that all three agencies remove all accounts, inquiries, and collections notices from any files associated with your child’s identity.
  • Ask that a fraud alert be placed on your child’s credit report.

2. File a Fraud Report For Your Child

  • This can be done online through the FTC or by calling them at 877-438-4338.
  • The police may need to get involved if the fraud relates to medical services or taxes.

Moving forward, be very selective about who you give your child’s social security number to. This will help to protect your child’s identity and give you peace of mind as you work to build a strong future for your child.

Article Source:  Kara Vincent for Lancaster Red Rose Credit Union