Tis the season…for fraud: How to protect your digital identity while holiday shopping online

(BPT) - While you're getting ready for the holiday season, so are fraudsters. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of Americans have reported they've been a victim of fraud or identity theft during the holidays, according to Experian, and online shoppers everywhere should be looking for helpful ways to protect their digital identities.

In honor of International Fraud Awareness Week (Nov. 13-19), there's no better time than now to prepare. Here is a list of the holiday scams expected to be prevalent this season - and measures you can take to defend yourself against fraud and identity theft when shopping online.

Social engineering attacks

Social engineering is a longstanding method of fraud where a hacker may pose as your relative, friend or coworker and ask for your help with a username, password or other login data. Cyberthieves continue to use these methods because they continue to work, year after year. It's effective because it exploits human emotion, both positive and negative, as a tool to steal personal information. Fraudsters may play on your sympathy to trick you into supplying important personal information via text message or email by pretending they are someone else that you know and care about. If a number or email address claiming to be from someone you know reaches out to you that you've never seen before, be on alert and make sure to confirm it's actually them before sharing any personal information.

Shipping scams

The holiday flurry of online shopping brings an increase in email updates from product shippers. Many of these emails include a link that takes you to a website where you're asked to log in to learn more about 'your recent purchase.' Always verify that the email's sender and the website links are legitimate before you log in or provide any personal information. Many people who have fallen prey to shipping scams say they trusted a fake email because they received it immediately upon making a purchase.

Gift card grifts

Another widespread holiday fraud tactic is the fake gift card scam, a ruse used by hackers to steal your personal information. For example, you may receive an email that asks you to provide your personal information in exchange for a gift card. Scammers then use that personal information to steal your identity and commit fraud while posing as you. Always be wary of sharing your personal information online with anyone you don't know or trust.

Here are four steps you can take to protect your digital identity from fraud this holiday season.

Use MFA or mobile phone verification

You've probably heard all the basics for protecting your passwords. Use strong passwords, change them often, don't use the same password at every site, etc. But even these steps don't provide ironclad protection.

You can significantly boost your security by adding multifactor authentication (MFA) to your logins, which many businesses now offer as an opt-in security feature. Adding MFA with your email or phone number reduces the risk of identity compromise by as much as 99.9%, according to Microsoft. It's a simple process that adds a strong extra layer of protection, and it's a good way to help businesses keep the bad guys out of your accounts.

Don't overshare

Never share your personal information freely online. It can be stolen and used to impersonate you or take over your accounts - especially at this time of year, when you're often distracted and the fraudsters are out in full force. Be careful about replying to unfamiliar emails, answering phone calls and texts from numbers you don't recognize, and sharing your personal information with websites you don't already know you can trust.

Set up credit alerts

There are a lot of websites that track your credit score for free and many of them will also send you an alert whenever a new account is opened in your name. Take advantage of this feature and opt in. Turn on notifications - they're usually offered by phone or email - and you'll know immediately when an account is opened in your name or when details of your existing accounts are changed.

Stick to familiar sites

Buy only from online sellers you know and trust - or those that you've researched. The internet is full of websites with offers that are too good to be true.

From all of us at Telesign, have a happy, safe and secure holiday season.

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