Don't Let Hackers Ruin Your Holidays

With the holiday shopping season here, it's important to protect ourselves online. Major data breaches have been in the news regularly as thieves have made off with sensitive data from millions of consumers. By being aware and taking precautions, we can prevent ourselves from being victims of cybercrime, hackers, ID theft, viruses and more.

A survey by CreditCards.com indicated that as data breaches exposing consumer credit, debit card and other personal information become more common, nearly half of cardholding shoppers say they're reluctant this holiday season to return to stores that have been hacked.

“You can’t depend on your favorite retailer to protect your information from cyber crime, hackers, big data marketers and identity theft,” says Vince Mazza, co-founder of Guard Street. “You must actively manage your security and privacy." 

Guard Street recommends these five tips:

1. Shop securely and anonymously. Use a secure virtual private network to shield cybercriminals and hackers from tracking your online activity from your mobile device, desktop or laptop. Be wary of free Wi-Fi or VPN – it may cost you a loss of privacy. Use a disposable email address should you need to enter an email address to enter websites or gain access to information. Try www.privacymart.com. 

2. Stop and think before sharing information. Don't provide information if you are unsure about the legitimacy of the request. Be careful of links taking you to sites that ask for your personal information. If an organization asks for your social security number to validate your identity, request another question. 

3. Stay on top of your statements. Review credit card statements every month for any unauthorized charges and make sure to keep an eye on the smaller charges. Thieves will charge smaller amounts to test to see if you notice and then change larger amounts later. 

4. Beware of email scammers. Some emails from scammers may mention big retailers who were hacked including Home Depot or they may offer free credit monitoring -- never click on these links! Many are fake sites that try to steal bank information or passwords. If an email looks creditable from a retailer, go to the retailers site directly instead of clicking on links.

5. Keep a clean machine. Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.

Source: Guard Street

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