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Holiday shopping is more convenient for consumers now more than ever! Sales for businesses have significantly increased with the ease of online shopping. We are in an age of technology with just the touch of your finger (literally), you can check off the kids’ Wish List for Santa all from a cell phone. Data from www.statisticbrain.com shows about $52 billion will be spent on holiday shopping from November 1st to December 16. Of that, nearly $4.5 billion will be spent on the Top 4 Online Spending Days alone – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday and Free Shipping Day. Identity theft and fraud is the fastest growing crime and it has never been more important – especially during holiday season – to take precautionary steps to protect yourself when shopping online.

While you are shopping for deals, professional scam artists and cybercriminals are searching for steals…and I don’t mean the bargains. They are targeting shoppers to steal credit card information, personal data such as social security numbers, personal and business checking accounts, and other valuable information that can destroy your identity and credit. Businesses are at a high risk, suffering from millions of dollars of losses, data breaches can lead to job losses, and each time a company’s security line is broken, the trust of consumers diminishes.

If you enjoy the convenience of online shopping, it is important to be cautious and follow some of these online shopping tips:

  1. Do your research. Before making a purchase from a new website, read reviews and see if other consumers have had positive or negative experiences with the site.
  2. When in doubt, throw it out. Forwarded emails, links in emails, posts and texts are often ways cybercriminals attempt to steal your personal information or infect your device.
  3. If a vendor is asking for information that seems inappropriate for a purchase, it is probably a scam. Remember, you only need to complete the required fields to check out.
  4. Use safe payment options. Credit cards are generally the safest option because buyers can request a credit from the bank or credit card company if the product wasn’t delivered or was not the item purchased.
  5. Carefully review your bank statements and credit reports to monitor spending.
  6. Be careful using Wi-Fi hotspots and Bluetooth and be sure to disable them when not in use.
  7. Make sure your computer is up-to-date on spyware/anti-virus programs to avoid hacking. Run the most current versions of software and apps.
  8. Create passwords unique and strong. It is also wise to have different passwords for every account.

There is no guarantee that you will not be a cybercrime victim. These tips are to help prevent identity theft and/or data breach; however, if you do become a victim you could be exposed to financial loss, destroyed credit, emotional stress, and many other affects. Coverages are available to individuals and business to reimburse for certain expenses and provide assistance to victims of identity fraud. Identity Fraud Expense Coverage offered on Homeowners’ Policies, generally provides $25,000 per occurrence for as little as $25 per year. Cyber Liability Insurance can help businesses maintain operations and continue business more effectively when a data breach or network security failure has occurred.

So, although ‘tis the season for deals…take precaution, follow these helpful hints, and talk to your agent about how you can protect yourself from steals.

Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas!

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