Online shopping has become the preferred method of many holiday shoppers. With the introduction of Cyber Monday, retailers are providing deep discounts and easy ways for shoppers to find the perfect gift for friends and family. Since I’ve started my role in IT Security, I’ve begun to look at online safety from a different perspective. We often think of identity theft and Internet security as some distant thought, but your information (and in some extreme cases, your financial livelihood) can be compromised with a single click.

Here are a few tips we tend to forget about during the holiday shopping season:

  • Look for “https”: Before entering personal or payment information, make sure you are on a secure website. You can see this by looking at the URL. If it starts with “https” then you’re on a secure website. If it doesn’t, don’t enter any personal or credit card information.
  • Use a virtual credit card number. Many of the major credit card companies offer services that generate a random credit card number that you can use while shopping online, by phone or mail. This random number is used instead of your real account number and purchases made with it are billed directly to your account. For more information, check with your cardholder.
  • Use a pre-paid card. Stay on target with your holiday budget and keep your personal banking information safe with a pre-paid card. You can purchase pre-paid cards from many retailers. You place a fixed dollar amount on the card and the card number is not tied to a bank or credit card account. Pre-paid cards with a Visa or MasterCard logo are the most widely accepted. But be aware, pre-paid cards should be used like cash so the same care you would give to protecting your cash should also extend to pre-paid cards.
  • Don’t open unsolicited emails. This is a simple tip that is often overlooked. If you didn’t sign up for emails from a retailer, don’t open them. Phishing emails appear to be from legitimate retailers or vendors but are actually fake emails sent by bad guys with the hope that you will click a link that provides them with your personal information or gives them access to your computer. When in doubt about an email, contact the sender directly to verify it is a legitimate email.

The holidays are a time for food, fun and family. Keep these simple, common-sense tips in mind to make your holidays a joyous one.

Happy Holidays from your IT Security Team!