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AAA: pandemic means increased chances of theft

As the COVID-19 pandemic forces people to make adjustments to their lives, online outlets are preparing for an increase in virtual holiday shopping this year.

Online shopping presents identity thieves with increased opportunities to steal personal data, and AAA East Central recommends holiday shoppers be especially cautious and take steps to protect themselves this season.

“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, and shopping online can increase your chances of having your information stolen,” said Dan Flynn, manager of financial services, AAA East Central. “Shoppers should monitor their credit reports and sign up for credit monitoring services, like the free AAA ProtectMyID program offered to members.”

To prevent theft of your credit card or other personal information over the holiday, AAA East Central Recommends:

¯ Don’t shop online on an unsecured wi-fi connection. Hackers may be able to steal that information, especially on public computers or on public Wi-Fi. Consider getting a personal hotspot if using a cell phone frequently in public for financial transactions.

¯ Stick to familiar websites. Don’t use a new website to buy something before checking consumer reviews, and make sure it offers a secure web page for credit card transactions.

¯ Beware of fake gift cards. Buy gift cards directly from the retailer. When buying a card from a kiosk in a store, beware that scammers can tamper with cards and then put them back.

¯ Be wary of whom an e-card is accepted. Cyber criminals can load e-card links or attachments with viruses and malware that download to a computer once the e-card is clicked.

¯ Donate to legitimate charities. Never give in response to an email solicitation or phone call. Instead, identify a charity to support, research it thoroughly and make a donation securely, either through snail mail or the charity’s own secure website.

¯ When shopping at retail locations, don’t let a credit card out of sight. Make sure a purse or wallet is secure at all times.

If using a debit card, protect the pin number from sight and consider purchasing an RFID blocking product.

¯ Keep smartphones in a secure place at all times, and use a passcode lock feature if it has one. Thieves can access a trove of personal data by stealing an unsecured cell phone.

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