Guiding consumers since 2009

Protect yourself from fraud this festive season

By Staff Writer

You may think you are safe when you log on to your favourite online shopping site, but that is not always true. As more people start to do their Christmas shopping online, the festive season is ripe pickings for fraudsters and cyber criminals who lie in wait for you to log on to your profile so that they can steal your information. However, by implementing a pre-emptive strategy, you can lower the risk of becoming a victim of fraud.
 
According to research from Deloitte, a financial services company, many consumers still prefer the in-store shopping experience, however, almost three-quarters of shoppers will conduct some form of research online prior to making in-store purchases.
 
Evert Smith, from Deloitte, noted: “Many people are often totally oblivious that they have been scammed due to the sophistication of some of the tactics being used. But in many cases it is often just a matter of a user not having updated their security software, or that they use outdated software that had security flaws which have since been improved in an updated version.”
 
With internet access expected to increase in the coming years, Smith pointed out that while this is a positive trend, “online theft will grow in tandem with these developments if left unchecked.”
 
However, online fraud is not the only crime that people are susceptible to over the festive season. Identity theft is another concern.
 
Salem Dyafta, consumer brand manager at TransUnion, emphasised that holiday makers often unknowingly leave their personal information exposed to fraudsters while travelling, which can result in a long and stressful battle to reclaim your stolen identity.
 
Taking steps to protect yourself
 
As is often stated, when shopping online you should only use reputable online shopping websites. There are several sources you can use to research a website before you use it. Smith revealed that these include Hellopeter and Mybroadband.
 
In addition, it is also important to read the terms and conditions about the returns and refunds policy carefully. “Make sure you have some re-course and before you commit to pay or render personal details, make sure the page on which you are filling in the details is secure i.e. https:// is enabled,” stated Mr Smith.
 
“More and more people are deciding to benefit from the convenience, accessibility and rewards on offer in the growing and increasingly popular online shopping space. However, they should not rush in with their eyes closed either,” added Smith.
 
In addition to these helpful online shopping safety tips, TransUnion offers some tips to help you protect your identity.

  • Be careful about using public Wi-Fi. It’s all good and well using public Wi-Fi, however, there are certain things that you shouldn’t do when using it, such as logging into your online banking profile and checking your bank account. “Many public Wi-Fi connections are not secure, making it easier for thieves to capture personal information,” revealed TransUnion.
  • Consider using a privacy screen. When using your laptop while travelling on public transport, or on a plane, where others can easily see the information on your screen, it is advised to make use of a privacy screen to prevent others from seeing the information.
  • Safeguard your wallet. Any busy, crowded space is the ideal opportunity for pickpockets and bag-snatchers. If your bag or wallet are stolen, it is vital that you notify your bank or card issuers immediately to cancel all cards. In addition, you can place an alert on your credit with a credit bureau, such as TransUnion, which will be notified when someone tries to take out credit in your name.
  • Keep copies of your credit cards, ID, driver’s licence and passport. When travelling it is important that you have copies of all your documents, such as your ID, passport and driver’s licence, as well as your bank and credit cards in the event that your information is compromised. “Having your credit card numbers handy helps banks or card issuers to protect your information even faster,” noted TransUnion.
  • Shred travel documents containing sensitive information.Once you are finished with all travel documents they should be destroyed. This includes all boarding passes. If you have stored these on your cell phone of other device, delete them immediately when they are no longer required.
  • Schedule bill payments ahead of time.“Avoid making bill payments while on holiday, as it adds another opportunity for thieves to steal your identity. It can also help you avoid late payments that can hurt your credit profile in the long run,” suggested TransUnion.
  • Consider freezing your funds. If you think that your personal information has been compromised, TransUnion advised contacting your bank and credit card companies to freeze your funds and prevent transactions taking place.
  • Have someone clear your post box while away.Leaving bank statements, municipal and store accounts and other important documents stacked up in your mailbox makes them easy to steal, ask a friend or neighbour to collect your mail and keep it for you while you are away.
  • Think carefully about sharing holiday plans on social media.While you may want the world to know about the wonderful holiday you are about to go it, this also informs thieves that you will be away from home. Try limiting the information that you make available on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook and be selective about who you inform about your trip.

 
For more tips on how to protect yourself against fraud, click here.

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