WATCH OUT: ‘Tis the season to get your identity stolen online

National
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HONOLULU (KHON2) — With the holidays approaching, the most wonderful time of the year isn’t necessarily the safest when shopping online.

According to a recent survey conducted by TopCashback.com, 71 percent of Americans plan to shop online this year.

But some are likely to get their identity stolen while shopping online. An Experian study says that it happened to about 43 percent of Americans surveyed.

To keep safe, here are some tips from a retail expert at TopCashback.com:

  • Avoid suspicious websites. If you see one that seems questionable, has an outdated design and/or has multiple pop-up windows, it may not be a legitimate retailer. Refrain from making any purchases on these types of sites to ensure that your personal information does not get compromised. 
  • Don’t overlook the URL. Make sure your site has either a little padlock icon on the left side of the search bar and/or says “HTTPS” — emphasis on the ‘S’. This layer of security is essential when online shopping and sharing personal information. If the site is not secured or the URL only features “HTTP,” your browser may point this out to you in the search bar. 
  • Unsecure networks and devices. If you’re going to make any purchase online, make sure you take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Use security software and firewalls to keep your information secured. Be sure to avoid public computers and public WiFi networks to make sure no one can potentially access your information. And the top way to make sure your information is protected is to regularly change your password (usually every three to six months) to reduce the chances of someone accessing your personal profiles, data, etc. 
  • Pay with protection. Ensure your online safety by not only logging onto a secure site and network but also by making purchases online with either a credit card or through PayPal. By using these payment methods, you’ll have an added layer of consumer protection that can guard you against fraud. However don’t get a false sense of security, if you notice any suspicious activity on your credit card, contact your provider immediately. 
  • Beware of phishing emails. While you’re skimming your email this holiday season for any coupons or promotions be wary of any enticing emails from an unfamiliar sender in your inbox. Avoid the most common type of fraud by deleting any suspicious emails. Even if it looks somewhat legitimate, keep in mind that criminals use this scheme to get you to provide personal information. You can also get a virus on your computer simply by opening the email, so be cautious. In addition to unfamiliar emails, be on the lookout for phishing emails disguised as if they came directly from family members, co-workers, etc. If the message looks strange, double-check the sender address to see if it is actually from that person. More often than not, your gut feeling is usually right so delete the message immediately if it is actually not from a person you know. 
  • Look out for gift-card scams. Scammers aren’t just interested in stealing your identity, credit- or debit-card information, some want your gift cards too. Be wary of any websites or phone representatives that only take gift cards from other retailers — like Walmart or Google Play gift card — for payment. Any merchant who limits your payment options to gift card only is usually trouble. 

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