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Tips for Safe Holiday Online Shopping

The holiday online shopping season is a prime time for cybercriminals and identity thieves to trick shoppers into giving up financial, identity or password information.

The IRS has launched a public awareness campaign called “Taxes. Security. Together.” and also launched a series of security awareness tips that can help protect you from cybercriminals.

Here are a few basic steps to make your shopping season safer:

  1. Look for the “s” in “https.” The “s” in the opening URL stands for security. Always look for “https” – example, https://www.irs.gov – before sharing any information about your credit card/bank information. The “https” means the site uses secured, encrypted technology.
  2. Don’t use a public Wi-Fi to shop online. Unsecured hotspots can be used by thieves to peek at your transactions. Do not make online purchases or financial transactions while connected to a public Wi-Fi.
  3. Avoid phishing emails. Your inbox will likely fill with all kinds of “special” offers that you never requested, from online companies unknown to you. Avoid clicking on any links within emails from unknown sources or downloading any attachments. Beware of emails asking you to update your accounts, for example from your credit card company, bank, tax software provider or internet provider.
  4. Skip online employment offers. Along with retail “special” offers in your inbox, the holiday season also brings special, unsolicited job offers – promising “mystery shopping” jobs or work-from-home employment for extra cash. These often are ruses to steal your identity. Think before providing your Social Security number, financial information or identity information to any online source.
  5. Shop with reputable online retailers. If a retailer is unknown to you, check them out a bit before providing any information. The Better Business Bureau is a good place to start. You also can do a general internet search for customer reviews of the company.
  6. Review financial statements frequently. Keep a close eye on your credit card and/or bank statements. Quickly alert your financial institution to any unauthorized charges or withdrawals.