Take some steps to avoid hol­i­day shop­ping scam­mers

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Business - Sean Pyles

Big sales, must-have items and a list that just seems to get longer: Hol­i­day shop­ping can drain your wal­let and your san­ity.

Don’t let the stress erode your guard against iden­tity theft, though. All that hol­i­day shop­ping can leave you more vul­ner­a­ble to scams.

“It’s the fact that we’re not pay­ing at­ten­tion that makes the holi­days so risky for ID theft,” says Eva Velasquez, CEOof Iden­tity Theft Re­source Cen­ter, a non­profit ded­i­cated to help­ing con­sumers safe­guard their iden­tity.

Save your­self from fall­ing vic­tim by rec­og­niz­ing th­ese sources of scams.

Unse­cure net­works and de­vices

Shop­ping over pub­lic Wi-Fi, such as an air­port net­work, or leav­ing your de­vices with­out pass­codes can make it eas­ier for scam­mers to ac­cess your in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing your bank ac­count and lo­gin cre­den­tials.

Tip: Se­cure your de­vices with pass­codes and don’t en­ter sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion, such as your credit-card num­ber or So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber, onto web­sites while us­ing pub­lic Wi-Fi. Gift-card scams

Rather than go­ing af­ter your credit- or debit-card in­for­ma­tion, some scam­mers want your gift cards. One red flag to watch out for: When you’re mak­ing a pur­chase on aweb­site or over the phone and the seller takes only gift cards from other re­tail­ers – such as an iTunes or Google Play gift card – for pay­ment, that’s a sign of trou­ble.

Pay­ing with a gift card can leave you vul­ner­a­ble be­cause there’s lit­tle pro­tec­tion if a ven­dor doesn’t hold up its end of the deal.

“Peo­ple should use their credit cards for pur­chases, be­cause they have the most pro­tec­tions,” says Lisa Wein­traub Schifferle, staff at­tor­ney at the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion.

Tip: Avoid re­tail­ers that re­quire pay­ment via gift cards from an­other com­pany.

Phish­ing web­sites and emails

You get an email froma rel­a­tive­with a danc­ing Santa or en­ter your in­for­ma­tion on a web­site that prom­ises the low­est price on big-ticket elec­tron­ics – if you cre­ate an ac­count. But when you click on that Santa’s tummy or make an ac­count to get that coupon, your info could be in the hands of scam­mers.

“Thieves are de­sign­ing their ne­far­i­ous ac­tiv­ity to cap­ture info about you that you may think is not that big of a deal,” Velasquez says.

Ex­pos­ing your in­for­ma­tion to a sketchy­web­site can leave you vul­ner­a­ble to iden­tity theft down the road, Velasquez says. If you use the same lo­gin cre­den­tials for mul­ti­ple ac­counts, a scam­mer could use that in­for­ma­tion to get into your email or bank ac­count.

Tip: Be care­ful where you click, and use differ­ent lo­gin cre­den­tials for differ­ent web­sites. Shop only on sites that have an “https” at the be­gin­ning of the url, which means the web­site is se­cure. Email: [email protected]­let.com. NerdWal­let is aUSATODAY con­tent part­ner pro­vid­ing gen­eral news, com­men­tary and cov­er­age from around the web. Its con­tent is pro­duced in­de­pen­dently of USA TO­DAY.

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