Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, the mad dash for holiday gift shopping has officially kicked into full swing. Thanks to the added convenience of tablets and smart phones (and now watches), online shopping can make finishing your gift list a breeze, but buyers beware. Cyber Grinches are working overtime this time of year, and you could wake up Christmas morning with a stolen identity and/or an empty checking account. A recent report has shown that cyber fraud and identity thefts peak during this time of year, revealing that “a whopping 40 percent of annual online fraud happens during the last three months of the year.”
Tips to avoid becoming a victim
Don't compromise financial security and your own personal safety for that perfect gift or a discount. Following some of these simple tips from The Guardian.com may help you avoid being a victim this holiday season:
- Do not use the same password for more than one online account. For example, your bank account and your email account should never have the same passwords.
- Be wary of suspicious social media posts. Social media is a top source for hacking due to thieves sending links through direct messages, tweets and wall posts, by advertising online discounts to friends and/or trusted sources of hacked accounts.
- Don't click on links in emails and on social media without confirming that they were sent intentionally, no matter the sender. Whether it's an email from your boss, sister and/or husband, pick up the phone and confirm IRL (in real life) that the sender, indeed, sent you a link.
- Only make online purchases from websites with SSL certificates. This can be confirmed by looking for an icon that looks like a padlock in the lower right-hand corner of the window.
- Do not download mobile apps outside the Apple App Store, Amazon App Store and Google Play Store.
- Confirm order history and shipping information via the online retailer's website directly, not through email links.
- The old saying is true… be wary of any online shopping deals that seem too good to be true.
- Keep your computer's applications and operating systems up to date.
- Use anti-spyware and anti-malware software on your computer.
If you find yourself faced with fraudulent bank charges, the most important thing to do is: (1) act fast and (2) know your rights. The general rule of thumb, under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, is that a consumer cannot be responsible for more than $50 of an online theft from their savings and checking account, and the bank is responsible for the remainder of the loss. But there is a time requirement to this protection. The consumer must report the theft within 60 days after the fraudulent activity appears on their statement. Unfortunately, online theft on consumer credit card accounts and business accounts are not as black and white. If the bank can show the theft was caused by something the account holder did, the bank may not be on the hook.
Maryland identity theft and cyber crime resources
If you believe you are victim to cyber fraud and/or identity theft, these additional resources may assist you:
- Federal Trade Commission's Quick Action Plan For Identity Theft
- Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Resource Guide to Identity Theft
- Maryland Attorney General's Identity Theft Assistance
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