To help achieve your long-term goals, such as a comfortable retirement, you should save and invest regularly. But that's only part of the picture. You also need to protect your financial assets in various ways. One such method is guarding your personal information – especially any information that could be linked to your financial accounts. It's obviously important to be vigilant at any time, but you need to be even more on your toes during the holiday season, when fraudsters are particularly active.
So, to help keep your important data under wraps during the holidays, consider these suggestions:
Extend your protection to all mobile devices. Identity thieves can now compromise your mobile devices by installing spyware that steals usernames, passwords and credit card information. Fortunately, you can fight back. By doing a little research online, you can find the best mobile security software for your needs.
Use multiple passwords. Online security specialists recommend that you use different passwords for each new online shopping site you visit during the holiday season. Although this might seem like a hassle, it can be helpful, because even if identity thieves were to grab one of your new passwords, they still couldn't use it for other sites you may visit. And you can even find a free online program that can help you keep track of all your passwords.
Be suspicious of "huge savings." It happens every holiday season – identity thieves develop fake sites with attractive graphics and stunningly low prices on a variety of items, especially digital devices. If you fall for these pitches, you won't get any merchandise, but you might get a handful of headaches once the bad guys have your credit card number and other personal information. To prevent this, be wary of any deal that sounds too good to be true, and do some digging on the websites that offer these mega-savings.
Watch for fake shipping notices. During the holidays, when you may do a lot of online shopping, you will probably receive some legitimate shipping notices. But the bad guys have gotten pretty good at generating fake notices designed to resemble those from UPS, FedEx and even the U.S. Postal Service. If you were to click on the link provided by one of these bogus notices, you could either take on some malware or get taken to a "phishing" website created by the shipping notice forgers. Your best defense: Only shop with legitimate merchants and only use the tracking numbers given to you in the email you received immediately after making your purchases.
Keep your Social Security number to yourself. As a general rule, don't give out your Social Security number online — to anyone. No legitimate retailer needs this number.
Finally, be aware that not all attempts at stealing your personal information will come online. When you're out shopping at old-fashioned brick-and-mortar stores, consider bringing just one credit card with you — and protect that card from prying eyes.
By following these precautions, you should be able to greatly reduce the risk of being victimized by identity thieves and other miscreants. And the more comfortable you are in doing your holiday shopping, the more you can enjoy the season.
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