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Preventing identity theft when shopping online

Oct 02, 2013 Dave King

Preventing identity theft when shopping online

Leaving holiday shopping to the last minute can be stressful, which is why many consumers choose to begin in October and November so they can be worry-free when everyone else is rushing around the mall in early December.

Many Americans choose to complete their shopping online. This method can provide convenience, but it also increases the risk of identity theft. For this reason, financial institutions - such as short term lenders - need to be vigilant during this time of year to ensure applications aren't using false identities.

Additionally, it would be wise for lenders to provide consumers with tips on how to avoid this type of crime. The following are just a few tips that can be used to prevent identity theft when shopping online.

No. 1 - Don't use unsecured wireless networks

Whether consumers are at home or no the road, when purchasing products online computers should always be connected to a password-protected Wi-Fi network, according to Consumer Reports. It is also important to ensure that all security features are turned on. It is probably best to shop online at home, as it is difficult to control identity theft risk on someone's else's network.

No. 2 - Be wary about what is shared on social media
Facebook and Twitter have taken off in recent years and, in some cases, people share way too much about themselves on these networks. While it may seem harmless posting about a birthday, this can actually make it easier for a criminal to steal an identity. With this information, identity thieves could piece together the puzzle that is needed to fraudulently open an account in a person's name. Therefore, it is recommended to take a long hard look at the privacy settings to ensure nothing is being shared that could put people at risk.

No. 3 - Avoid any unsecured websites
Before entering payment information, consumers should take a look at the URL to see if the website is secured, Bank of America noted. This should be easy to spot, as safe pages will generally include "https" as opposed to just "http." Even if people can only find a certain item on a website that isn't secured, it is best to pass because purchasing the product could create serious financial troubles.

No. 4 - Always use a credit card
It may not seem like there is a big difference between shopping online with a debit or credit card, but that couldn't be further from the truth. For the most part, credit cards come with much greater fraud protection. Most providers will offer zero-fraud liability, which means cardholders aren't liable for any purchases if the plastic is lost or stolen. Meanwhile, becoming a victim of identity theft while using a debit card can create major headaches. For instance, the person's checking account could be tied up for the duration of the investigation.

Using these tips and strong ID verification procedures, short term lenders can be one of the first lines of defense against identity theft.