Monday, December 02, 2013

Protecting your Identity while Taking Advantage of Cyber Monday Deals

At this time of year good deals are waiting around every corner and it makes sense to take advantage of them while you can.  This is especially true for items you had already planned to purchase.  During the countdown to the winter holidays the last thing you need is to inadvertently put your identity at risk.  Listed below are some tips for protecting your identity while shopping online for whatever deals may cross your path.

  1. Trust your gut and beware of clicking on links from unsolicited emails.  I cannot express this strongly enough.  If you receive an email from someone you are not familiar with and have not had contact with before, use caution when clicking on links in the email.  Instead, try going directly to the site to see if you can find the same information for that deal.  This tip applies to everyday use as well.  If you suddenly start getting emails from your bank asking for information or prompting you to change your password, do not click on the links in those emails without investigating a bit further.  Try calling the bank to verify they sent you the email, or open a web browser and type in the bank's website directly and log into your account.  If there is an issue with your account, there will be an email notification or a prompt at some point letting you know what the issue is and how it can be remedied.  NOTE:  There are email specials advertising deals that will only work when you click directly through the email (Red Envelope to name one).  These can also be legitimate offers as they use this to track their marketing effectiveness and also offer specials to loyal customers.  Trust these only if you have done business with a company in the past without issue.
  2. Verify checkout is secure.  Once you have added all of your items to your cart and start the checkout process, verify the site is using https:// not just http:// in the name of the webpage before typing in any personal information.  The s stands for secure and means your data is being encrypted when you submit your information.  Any site you go to should use https:// for any form you use to submit information including contact pages, sign up pages, shopping carts, etc.  While this does not absolutely guarantee your data is secure, you should definitely avoid any site not using https:// for the checkout process.

  3. Log out and close the web browser before you walk away from the computer.  Once you have placed your order you should log out of your account and close the web browser.  Closing the session will disconnect you and prevents your data from being pulled up by someone else after you.  As an example, have you ever used a website and been part way through the checkout process, clicked the back button and had the data you had already inputted disappear?  This is done to prevent someone else from getting on the computer after you and trying to go back through the same web pages you did to access your personal and financial information.  Logging out of your accounts and closing the web browser will help prevent this from happening.
  4. When in doubt, call customer support.  If you are shopping online and have picked the items you want to order but feel uneasy putting your information into the website, you can always call to order your items.  Look for a customer support number, which should be easy to find, and try calling and talking to someone first.  If you feel comfortable once you are talking to someone, ordering over the phone should be as easy and quick as ordering online.  Using the item numbers, you can place your order quickly and still get a confirmation email for your order - be sure to request this if they do not offer.
  5. Remember, most products are sold at more than one location.  Aside from the most elusive and unique products, you will likely find the same item for sale in more than one location.  If you find a product for sale online somewhere and do not feel comfortable ordering there, try typing the manufacturer's item number, or the exact name of the item in a search engine and see where else you can find the item for sale.  Many times you can find the same product on sale at the same special price somewhere you are more familiar with.  Besides, would having your identity stolen really be worth saving $1.50?  
Whatever it is you are buying this holiday season and throughout the year, always remember to trust your gut and do your best to protect your personal and financial data at all times.  The amount of time you will save in the long run is far more valuable than saving a few nickels today.

Happy shopping!

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