With the holiday season here, many consumers are taking to both the Internet and their favorite stores to get all their shopping done, but experts warn the threat of identity theft, particularly online, looms larger at this time of year.
For this reason, consumers should do all they can to make sure that they’re not inadvertently exposing themselves to this type of fraud when they hustle to get every gift on their list this month, according to a report from the office of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. Perhaps the best tool to combat credit card fraud and identity theft, not only during the holidays but year-round, is vigilance.
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This is especially true when shopping online, because of the proliferation of fraud sites in the last few years, the report said. Now, criminals can set up sites that look exactly like checkout pages for typical online shopping centers, but are actually designed to steal payment information from unsuspecting shoppers. For this reason, consumers should keep an eye on their Web browser’s address bar. If they don’t see a little lock icon, or an “https” prefix instead of “http,” then the site may not be what they think it is. Further, shopping only through well-known online retailers will help to curb the chance of being hit by fraud.
“Buying gifts online may help you avoid long lines and crowds, but with convenience comes some risks,” Cooper said. “Use caution when you shop online to save money and prevent stress during this busy holiday season. Whether you’re shopping online or at the mall, be careful. You keep your wallet in a safe place when you go shopping and it’s just as important to guard your money and your personal information when you shop online.”
Of course, when shopping at stores in the real world, similar precautions might be a good idea, the report said. For instance, paying only by credit card might increase a shopper’s protection because most accounts come with no fraud liability these days, and if they don’t federal law prohibits the victim from being responsible for more than $50 of bogus debt loaded onto their account by a criminal.
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Consumers might also want to take the time to check over their monthly financial statements as closely as possible to make sure there are no unrecognized transactions, which likewise could be a sign of fraud.
Image: Images_of_Money, via Flickr