NDSU Extension - Mercer County

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Using Digital Dollars During the Holidays

Shopping Online, Fraud, Online Scammers

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Whether you're Christmas shopping online, shopping for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other holiday, nothing takes the spirit out of the season quite like a case of fraud. Online scammers are always looking to separate you from your valuable personal data.

While many security measures enhance the safety of digital transactions, online and mobile consumers may still face privacy risks. An open Wi-Fi connection, a lost smartphone or accidentally revealed passwords are just a few of the ways your information could get out without your permission. Fortunately, there are many tips and tools to help you make safe and secure transactions online and on the go.

The Internet and mobile technology have improved our lives in many ways, they also have created new ways for consumers’ personal information to be stolen, unintentionally revealed, or misused. For example, an identity thief anywhere in the world could steal your personal information by luring you to a fraudulent website that tricks you into revealing your password. A lost or stolen smartphone full of stored passwords and account information could pose more risk than a missing wallet.

Everyone runs the risk of having a piece of mail intercepted or a confidential conversation overheard. But if you bank or make payments online or by mobile device, there are other ways your privacy could be violated. Someone who ends up with your lost or stolen computer or phone might be able to access your personal data, account numbers and payment information. Someone could intercept the information you send and receive over a wireless network. A scammer could trick you into entering your private information on a spoofed (copycat) website or responding to a bogus email request (phishing). Someone you know could access your accounts by guessing or discovering your password. Or you may save usernames and passwords on a shared computer or unprotected mobile device, giving a key to intruders. Your computer or mobile device could be infected by spyware or other disruptive software (malware) capable of stealing your data.

A closed padlock or unbroken key in the browser frame and an “s” after “http” (“https://”) in the website address indicate the site is secure and encrypted. (This means the information is being sent in a format that only the intended recipient can read). Logos from companies such as VeriSign and McAfee signify that a website uses encryption or other security technology to protect your data. Click on the logos for more information about the site. A site that automatically ends your banking session after a certain period of inactivity is an example of an extra measure of security.

Finally, lock your wireless network. Leaving your wireless network “unlocked” means that anyone within range of your Wi-Fi signal can access it and possibly capture the data you send and receive on an unencrypted site.

Have a happy and safe spending season!

Source: consumer-action.org

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