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More Americans expected to shop online this holiday season

Oct 27, 2013 Dave King

More Americans expected to shop online this holiday season

Online shopping provides convenience for consumers, as it enables people to purchase holiday gifts from the comfort of their home. However, without the proper precaution, Americans may put themselves at risk of identity theft when purchasing items on the Internet.

This year, online shopping is expected to grow in popularity. In fact, Deloitte's annual holiday survey found that the Internet will overtake discount/value department stores as the No. 1 shopping destination for the first time ever in 2013.

With more people buying gifts at online merchants than ever before, identity theft could be at an all-time high this holiday season. Therefore, financial institutions such as short term lenders should step up ID verification procedures. Additionally, lenders should provide borrowers with tips on how to avoid identity theft so consumers can keep their personal information safe during the holidays.

The following are a few steps Americans can take to protect themselves:

- Only shop on secure websites

Before submitting a payment online, people should take a look at the URL to ensure the website is secure. This can be determined if the web address includes "https" not "http," according to Bank of America. On a secure website, consumers can have peace of mind that their information is safe, as credit card numbers and other data is encrypted before being sent over the Internet.

- Use a secure method of payment
For extra security, consumers would be wise to use the most secure form of payment available, which is probably a credit card. Many people may shy away from credit because they don't want to create debt, but these cards have much stronger security protections than debit cards. People who don't want to carry a balance on their credit card can simply pay down purchases after completing transactions online.

- Password protect wireless networks
When shopping on a wireless network at home, consumers may feel they have nothing to worry about, but that isn't the case. Unless this connection is password protected, outside hackers could gain access and steal personal information. For this reason, it is important that home Wi-Fi is always protected by a unique passcode, according to IT World. This means it shouldn't be something easily guessed, such as a name or important date. Instead, people will need to create passwords that include lower- and upper-case letters, numbers and symbols.

- Check credit reports
No matter how many precautionary steps people take, there is always the risk identity theft might occur. One of the best ways consumers can check to see if they have been victimized is by pulling a copy of their credit report. If anyone opened a credit card or loan in their name, it will show up on this document. Any suspicious activity should be reported immediately to avoid any further damage. This step can help consumers get on the road to recovery, but there is no guarantee that credit scores will fully recover from identity theft, so it is important to take the necessary preventive measures.

Short term lenders need to be a line of defense
During the holiday season, short term lenders need to be one of the first lines of defense against identity theft. The reason for this is the fact that criminals tend to open lines of credit using stolen names. That said, employees should be informed to be extra strict during this time of year with ID verification procedures to ensure that people applying for loans are who they say they are.