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Cyber Monday: How To Shop Safely

With the holidays quickly approaching, you may have caught yourself whistling a Christmas tune here and there before Thanksgiving. With Christmas in the air, the search for the perfect gift for that special someone is on. As Black Friday grows closer, the deals have already begun to flood your mailbox and emails. Since 1932, Black Friday has been regarded as the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season. It seems, however, in the 21st century more Americans are opting out of the mob scene and shopping from the comfort of their own homes online. Thus, the ever-growing popular Cyber Monday. With that being said, the biggest holiday for online shopping also happens to be the biggest holiday for online hackers. The rise of technology has also brought along the rise of identity theft and cyber-criminals. Unfortunately, there's no guaranteed way to avoid online fraud. However, these seven tips will help protect your personal/financial information this upcoming holiday season.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock Photo Credit: Thinkstock
Password Protection

Create a strong password. When creating a password don't use information that can be traced back to you. Try to avoid information that can be easily found and detected including your birth date, pet's name or phone number. Try to always include a capital and lowercase letter, a number, as well as one character or symbol. The more passwords you have the better. Be sure that if you write down each password you keep them in a secure place.

E-mail Safety

Never exchange financial information such as your social security number or bank account information via email. If you receive an email or pop-up requesting you to update or fill out personal information do not reply. In addition, never click on links within in an email asking you to provide or validate personal information. This practice is called "phishing." "Spear phishing" is an email resembling a familiar website or financial website containing your address, family names or previous jobs from social network websites asking you for financial information. Scammers will take a company you are familiar with, like FedEx or UPS and ask you to refill info about a previous purchase. To avoid this type of fraud, be sure to read emails carefully before clicking anything and contact the company directly. A good rule of thumb is if a deal sounds too good to be true, like a suspiciously low deal on a hard to get item, it probably is.

Related: 45 Stores That Won't Be Open On Thanksgiving Day 2016

Online Security

Be sure to check that a website is secure before divulging your financial information. According to TD Bank, "Look for a URL that begins with "https://" and the "closed padlock" ( ) in the lower right hand corner of your browser." The Better Business Bureau is also a great resource for checking business reputation and customer satisfaction records. In addition, keep your financial information limited by declining to save your password when you're logging on to a financial site. Logging off and exiting the browser after a transition is complete will also help to protect your identity from being stolen.

Beware Not To Over-Share

With various social media websites available, many people are putting key personal information about themselves on display for identity thieves. We all have seen the basic security questions for password protection such as your first pets name. Beware not to share information such as your full birthday, high school or middle school name, mothers maiden name, hometown, etc. If you're a member of social media websites like Facebook and do have this information visible be sure to update your security settings to a private setting. Criminals will try to use this researched information to gain your trust and financial information.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock Photo Credit: Thinkstock
Install And Maintain Anti-Virus And Anti-Malware Software

The FBI cyber division recommends installing an anti-virus and anti-malware software to protect your financial and personal information. Identity thieves will use malware in the form of a virus to invade your computer and access your personal info. TB Bank recommends that Windows users should turn on the auto-update feature. Firewalls can make you virtually "invisible" online and help aid in blocking unauthorized sources.

Beware Unsecure Wi-Fi

Criminals look for unsecure Wi-Fi communications that can be easily intercepted. Be sure to put a password on your home Wi-Fi network and wait until you are home to make any financial transactions. With new and convenient online banking, it may be tempting to use an unsecured network to look up account information, however, this makes you vulnerable to criminals who are on the same network.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock Photo Credit: Thinkstock
Choose Credit Over Debit

With a debit transaction, the money is immediately taken out of your account. This can become problematic depending on your bank and their policy on fraud. With a credit card, the charges typically stay pending for a day or two, giving you enough time to spot the fraud, cancel the transaction and file for a new credit card. While your new credit card is on its way, you can still use your debit card and take out cash. Under federal law, you are within your right to dispute charges if you don't receive the item you purchased or if you encounter a purchase you did not authorize. Avoid wire transferring money indefinitely. If you authorized the transfer the bank, in many cases, will not be able to refund your money.

Related: 8 Gluten Free Recipes For Thanksgiving Dinner

Monitor Credit And Bank Accounts

During the busy holiday season it is extremely important to constantly monitor your bank accounts. A 2011 study showed that 43% of fraud is first detected by victims. Many thieves now a days don't use your card to make one big purchase. Instead, they will charge a small amount of 20 dollars or less, in efforts to remain undetected and keep the credit card number active as long as possible. In addition, these thieves will also use your account info to open new accounts as they are harder to detect. To protect yourself from new account fraud, get regular credit reports in efforts to help you identify any new and unauthorized accounts.

Follow these tips to protect yourself this Cyber Monday and share with loved ones who you know may also be participating in online shopping this holiday season. For additional information check out the FBI's website, the Federal Trade Commission's website or call your local bank for tips on keeping your financial information protected.

Merissa Principe is a teacher and a freelance travel blogger from NYC. Teaching early childhood education has provided Merissa an opportunity to travel all over the world and live in new places. Be sure to follow her at for all things travel, beauty, fashion and New York City.
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