Many of us will be using smartphones and laptops for our holiday shopping. While it may be more convenient than a drive to the mall, going online presents dangers to your credit and personal data. Cyber-crooks are lurking, just waiting for a slip-up to steal your identity and get into your bank and credit card accounts. As you tap in and surf for deals, be cautious about where you go and the information you give others. It’s estimated that one-in-five Americans have been a victim of identity theft, and 43% of those had their identity stolen while shopping online during the holidays.
It’s more important than ever that you protect your personal information. Here are some important internet shopping safety tips to remember:
- Don’t open suspicious or unsolicited emails that can often take you to dangerous sites
- Shop with familiar companies, looking for the secure “https” in the URL (“S” indicating it is a secure site), and beware of copycat sites with slight misspellings
- Use strong, unique passwords for online accounts
- Avoid using debit cards and pay with a credit card for online shopping (credit cards offer the most fraud protection)
- Refrain from shopping or banking while using free or public Wi-Fi
- Be aware of fake charity, pet adoption and lonely-hearts solicitations
- Check your credit card, bank and other accounts often for suspicious or fraudulent charges
- Never send a gift card for payment (a trick many crooks use)
If you are planning on giving to a charity, you also need to take your time and do research to make sure your donation goes to a good cause. Scammers know that people’s good hearts make them easy targets for rip-offs. Remember to:
- Be skeptical of email solicitations from charities you have never heard of or supported before
- Avoid giving to any organization requesting gift cards, wiring money, or transferring funds to an overseas bank
- Realize that many social media donation sites may not be legitimate
- Seek out each charity’s authorized website (crooks often use sound-a-like sites and misspellings)
- Check the legitimacy of charities through sites such as the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator and GuideStar
If you suspect that you have been an ID theft victim, the Federal Trade Commission recommends:
Find more ID theft protection information https://mycalcas.com/?s=cyber+crooks.
One of the many benefits that California Casualty offers with every auto and home/renters policy is free ID theft resolution services from CyberScout. Learn more at www.calcas.com/identity-theft or call 1.800.800.9410, option 3 to learn more.
Keeping track of all our security passwords and codes is a pain. There’s one for the credit cards, a few for work, and a half dozen others for everything from the online bill paying to our social media accounts.
Since it’s become such hassle, all too many of us are using an easy-to-remember password that is making it very easy for cyber-crooks to breach our security and have access to our bank accounts and other important personal information. In the US alone there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds. That is why creating a strong password that is easy for you to remember, yet difficult for a hacker to guess is so important.
When you create a password to protect your personal information please avoid using:
These passwords have been named “worst passwords of the year 2018” and many of them have been on the worst list for YEARS. Using these, and others like football, abc123, and 654321 (also on the list), means you are making it too easy for hackers and criminals to compromise your accounts.
So, what’s the key to creating a complex, secure password? Use one that employs 12 characters or more with a mix of symbols, letters, and numbers.
To avoid having one of the worst passwords, follow these password creation tips:
- Create passwords with as many letters, symbols, numbers and mixed case letters as possible
- Use mnemonic tricks to remember your passwords
- Store your passwords in a safe place that’s not on your computer
- Use different and unique passwords for important accounts
- Set up your password recovery options and keep them up to date
The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, says a secure password should look something like this: Il2pBb3x!. The sequence comes from, “I like to play basketball three times a week,” just changed to simple symbols. Or think of a word that only has significance to you, change a few letters to make them capital, make some letters into symbols, and add in a long number. Ex. m@VEr1cK5991
And, if that all seems too complicated, there are free online password generator internet sites that will do the hard work for you. But once you’ve created a nearly full-proof password, your work is still not done. Experts advise that passwords need to be changed often, possibly once a month or quarter.
California Casualty also offers an added layer of protection; every auto and home insurance policy comes with free ID Theft 911 protection, which comes with ID theft resolution service. Contact an advisor for more information or a free policy review at 1.866.704.8614 or visit www.calcas.com.
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As taxpayers rush to get their 1040’s in by the April 15th deadline, the IRS is once again warning thieves may be targeting them as ID theft victims. Hundreds of thousands of Americans find out every year that someone has used their Social Security Number to claim false refunds. In fact, the tax agency reported that it received almost 3 million consumer complaints of ID theft and fraud in 2018. That number has stayed pretty consistent since 2015.
The IRS has a list of tips to try and prevent the problem:
- Don’t respond to emails, tweets or phone calls asking for personal information – the agency never initiates contact via electronic media
- If you receive such an email message, forward it immediately to the IRS at email@example.com
- Never carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet
While the IRS has instituted new programs and resources to try and prevent tax ID theft, they warn crooks continue to find new ways to capitalize on other’s rightful money. For more information about tax-time identity theft, visit http://www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection.
The Federal Trade Commission also has a comprehensive list for taxpayers who fear they may have been victimized by identity theft at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0008-tax-related-identity-theft. This article is provided by California Casualty. We offer free 911 ID defense with all auto and home insurance policies. Get piece of mind and make sure your policies are up to date at www.calcas.com or by calling 1.800.800.9410