‘Tis the season for holiday shopping -- and thieves.
"Identity theft peaks this time of year. Wallets are stolen, credit cards are accidentally left behind, and online fraudsters are ready to prey on their next victims," said Steve Schwartz, Executive Vice President of Consumer Services at Intersections Inc.
But there are some simple steps consumers can take to avoid making careless decisions that can have a long-term effect on their financial well-being.
- Protect your computer from online threats including money-stealing Trojans, the leading tool for cyber criminals, according to Intersections. Cyber criminals are using more sophisticated Trojans to grab your bank account and credit card login information, disable your security software, and sneak into your bank account by pretending to be you. Here’s the best way to avoid Trojans: Do not open attachments or click on e-mail links, and regularly update your anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software.
- Make sure the websites you’re using are secure and legitimate. They should have an "s" in the website address, i.e., https:// instead of http://. Also, check to see if the website has a closed padlock in the bottom of the screen. An open padlock indicates an insecure site.
- Be sure to buy gift cards from a reliable source. Some sellers on auction sites are overstating the value of the gift cards so buyers don't end up with the gift card amount they think they are purchasing.
- Watch out for “Tweet Traps” or Facebook messages. A message may appear to be from a trusted friend or follower who’s passing along news about a great bargain, when it’s actually hiding spam or a malicious download.
- Do NOT give out your financial information over the phone or via email. If your bank or credit card contacts you, don’t respond on the spot. Contact them directly by using the e-mail or number posted on their websites.