How to protect your identity on Cyber Monday

OKLAHOMA CITY – Cyber Monday is less than two weeks away and the Oklahoma Society of CPAs is offering seven tips on how to protect your identity while online shopping.

Only shop on secure sites

  • If a website URL begins with “https” instead of “http,” the site is secured with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate. Secure sites will also display an icon, such as a padlock or an unbroken key, to let consumers know their credit card information is protected.
  • If a site has a privacy statement, which explains how they secure your information, you’ll want to read the fine print to make sure you agree to their terms. If you’re unsure if a site is reputable, avoid entering any personal information.

Enable 2-step verification

  • 2-Step Verification adds an extra layer of security. Enabling this feature prevents anyone from accessing or using your account, even if they know your password. Typically, you sign in with your password and then you enter an additional code that is texted to your phone.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi

  • Using public Wi-Fi for online purchases can be dangerous and puts your information at risk. Hackers can access every bit of information people use on public networks – including email and credit card information.
  • Use a password-protected network to make purchases and access bank information.

Only pay using credit cards

  • When it comes to online shopping, credit cards are a safer choice than debit cards. If your debit card gets compromised, the hacker has direct access to your checking account and can spend your money instantly. Most credit card companies will help track down fraudulent charges. Some companies even have a “zero liability” policy and will take care of any fraudulent charges that may occur. Further, many credit companies and financial institutions offer to notify you via text or email when your card is used to make purchases or if the institution notices suspicious activity.
  • Allow feedback on your accounts.
  • Or, you can purchase a prepaid card and only put the money you plan to spend on Cyber Monday on that card. If thieves do access that card information, in theory, you would have already spent all the money.

Ignore pop-up ads and spam links

  • Valid websites will only send email promotions to those who subscribe, so never click a link from an unfamiliar sender.
  • If you do get an email with a great sale, go directly to the company’s official site. Find the item and the great deal on that site rather than clicking on anything sent in an email.
  • Social media giveaways have also become very popular with consumers and, unfortunately, hackers. Retailers usually ask people to like or share a post, which counts as an entry for the contest. Hackers create phony contests to promote incredible deals to attract contestants. Once a contestant enters, the hacker has access to all of his or her personal information.
  • Only participate in giveaways hosted by valid retailers.

Use digital wallets

  • Apps like PayPal, Samsung Pay, Cash App, Venmo, Apple Pay and Google Wallet allow you to input credit card information and then your mobile device carries the encrypted account information, and you use your phone to pay (not all retailers are set up to accept payments this way, but it is becoming more popular).

Update your software

  • Make sure your computer is equipped with the most current operating system and antivirus software.
  • Download the latest update on your smartphone and/or tablet.
  • It is also wise to use effective browsers—such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Safari—so your device can detect emerging viruses and scams, which will better protect your cornucopia of information.