It’s important to keep your credit card information safe every year, but it’s especially hard during the holidays. The holidays are when attackers make extra effort to gain access to your financial data. Here are six ways you can protect your credit card information from attackers as you shop online or at your local store.

You should always take steps to protect your financial data during the entire year, but the amount of scams and malware skyrocket during the holidays. Scammers know that more people are using credit cards and shopping online than any other time of the year, so they make an increased effort in creating fraudulent sites, phishing emails, and scam ads made to steal your data. Here are some ways to protect your financial data during the holidays.

Check for HTTPS on the Retail Site

HTTPS is the HTTP protocol with an encryption layer. Any retailer that takes personal information from you must have an SSL certificate installed, which then displays to you in the browser as HTTPS. All of the major browsers show you the certificate name and information when you navigate to a secure site. If the certificate is invalid or configured fora different site, the browser displays a warning. Before you shop on any online store, the first thing to check Is that they have an SSL certificate installed.

Change Your Password to Something Complex

Even if you forget your password later, you should change it to something complex and hard to guess during the holidays. Some retailers get hacked, and then the hackers decrypt passwords. Poorly created passwords are cracked within minutes, and your account is vulnerable. The hacker sometimes logs into your retail account and orders product on your stored credit card. You’re especially vulnerable if you use the same password across multi pie sites. Once the attacker has your account login and password, he can now log in to multiple retail sites from just one attack. You can use password managers such as Lastpass to keep track of passwords, so you don’t lose or forget them. It’s good for your financial protection to frequently change your passwords on different shopping websites.

Turn Off Automatic Wi-Fi Detection on Your Smartphone

At home, It’s safe for your smartphone to automatically conned to a Wi-Fi connection. When you’re out shopping. you want to use only your data connection. Smartphones that automatically conned to the nearest WI-Fi hot-spot are vulnerable to hackers that create these connections just to steal your data. As you walk by, your smart phone connects to the malicious connection and a hacker can see data you transfer between your phone and any website. You can turn this feature off while you shop and turn it back on when you get back home. It’s used to save money on cellular data plans, but it’s an easy way for an attacker to gain access to your financial data.

Don’t Give Out Too Many Details About Yourself

The more details you give an online site about you, the easier it is for an attacker to put puzzle pieces together and Identify you, your social media accounts, and even your passwords. Websites use profile data to help sell you products that you like, but this data also gives attackers a good background when they want to steal your identity.

Retailers won’t like it, but you should limit the amount of information that you divulge online. Attackers spend a lot of time in reconnaissance researching people that they want to target. You make it more difficult for them when you don’t have a lot of information stored anywhere, and you can even convince them to skip your identity and go for someone else’s.

Phishing is another common way attackers gain access to your information. They will even hack your friends’ emails and send links to you from the hacked account’s contact list. You’re more willing to dick a link from a friend, so it’s more efficient for attackers to use this method. Always be suspicious of any link in an email.

If you get a suspicious email from a friend, email them and ask if the referral is legitimate. You can also help your friends find out if their accounts are compromised. Some open email providers such as Google’s (nail make It difficult for phishing emails to pass through filters, but some do get through, especially if they come from a hacked friend’s account.

Is It Safe to Shop Online During the Holidays?

As with any of the risks of identity theft are associated with online shopping. Cyber Monday is a big day for holiday shopping, and much of It Is done online. Retail stores have so many sales, and many of them are for online shoppers only. It’s too tempting to resist the sales for many shoppers, and shopping online reduces much of the stress of shopping at a physical store.

During the holidays, shopping at a store can be exhausting with aggressive shoppers, large crowds and long lines. It’s safe to shop online if you take the right precautions. You don’t have to avoid online stores altogether, but be aware of the red flags and signs of a scant if it’s too good to be true, you should avoid it.

Having your credit card stolen will cost you, through unwanted charges and the hassle of dealing with them, as well as having to cancel current cards and acquire new ones. Thieves these days are more eager than ever to help themselves to what belongs to you, including your credit cards. By taking the following steps, you can make yourself a less tempting target and avoid many difficulties.

Know your data beforehand.

For each credit card, note the number of the card, the name on the card, the expiration date, and emergency phone numbers from the back of the card. Do not, however, write down your security codes or passwords (or if you must, do not keep them in the place as your other data). Keep your information in a secure location that others cannot easily find, but make sure that you can access it readily when the time comes.

Be stingy with your credit card data.

Do not leave your cards in plectra where others, such as generator coworkers, can find them. Be especially careful on the phone. If an organization calls you, do not give your data unless you have every reason to trust the all. In general, only use your credit card on the phone when you place the phone call. Be Just as careful with websites unless you can tell that it is secure, it may be better to use PayPal for these credit card payments if you must hand over your credit card in a store or restaurant, you should watch as the transaction occurs to make sure nothing funny happens.

Take extra care while traveling.

When beveling and paying with a credit card, don’t mention that you’re from out of town, as thieves are more tempted to steal from someonewho is leaving the area. Of course, sometimes the fact that you’re from somewhere eke is obvious, as when you speak with an accent. In these situations be especially prudent.

Second Up: If you’re journeying to an area you don’t usually visit, contact your credit card company and tell them beforehand. That will help you pay for those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, which is why you have the credit card.

Watch out for skimmers.

Skimming Is possible wherever there’s technology that records your credit card information as you use it. Most often found at ATMs and gas pumps, these devices also are used In some restaurants Before using an ATM or gas pump, check to see if they show signs of tampering If a contraption seems loose, assume there’s a problem and move on.

Even if you think everything is OK, use one hand to shield your PIN entry, because skimming also occurs with cameras trained on the device to record all your data as you use the card. Of-course, many establishments have security cameras, but they should be positioned to observe the people and not the data entry. Also, you are less likely to be skimmed if you use ATMs inside your bank or if you use the gas pumps closest to the door. Click here to learn how to get a good credit score.

Use notification services for your credit cards. Instead of waiting for the once-a-month statement, sign up for Instant notification of transactions, and If you see something wrong, contact the credit card company at once.You an also create notifications to let you know if your credit card bill Is due, thus helping you avoid late fees. Another possible notification warns you if the total amount owed is near the limit so that you stop making additional charges on that card. In some cases, you can even find out if your and leaves a given region of the country or is no longer near your phone.

Manage your number of credit cards

The Ideal number of credit cards is up to you and should reflect your Income, your goals, and your lifestyle. If you travel a lot, you may need more cards than someone using cards for only a few local purchases. Most people want at least two, so the will have a backup if one card is compromised. Monitoring only one or two credit cards is much easier than tracking 30. You’ll be less likely to have other problems, such as forgetting to make a payment on a card or racking up piles of bad debt.

At least once a year (preferably before you incur annual fees) review all your credit cards and decide If you wish to terminate any. If you see that you’ll want to cancel a credit card in a few months schedule this beforehand or find a way to remind yourself when the time comes, such as entering “Cancel Credit Card In your calendar.

**Sometimes use cash. **Credit cards are useful because you can reverse transactions, as is sometimes necessary. You can’t undo transactions you make using debit cards or real physical money. On the other hand, sometimes a transaction is not in doubt, such when you’re paying for a meal at a restaurant. Just don’t flash your cash; you don’t want to tempt muggers. If you would like take a session on debt counselling, here’s the link.

Credit cards are evolving. Credit card companies are creative, but so are thieves. The safeguards that are state of the art this year may be obsolete In the next. Stay abreast of this issue so that your credit card remains an asset Instead of a liability.

Everyone wants a good deal during Cyber Monday, but the scammers take advantage of deal desperation. If a deal Is too good to be true, you should probably walk away from it. Shopping online makes Cyber Monday much less stressful, but It’s also easier for stammers to trick you into giving up personal details that can later be used to steal your money or your credit card information.

Search Deals Directly on Retail Sites Rather Than Search Engines

Search engines do their best to rank legitimate sites and leave the scams out of results, but algorithms make mistakes. Scammers are sneaky and manipulate search engines even if it’s only for a few weeks. It only take a day for a stammer to rank and bank their website. The best way to avoid these scam sites is to search for deals on either a trusted retail site or the brand site.

If you find a deal that you like, you can then compare deals among other retailers. You can look through search engines but stick to retailers that are well known instead of small blogs or unknown online stores that offer prices that are too low. Don’t fall for ridiculous scheme Just because you’re saving a few dollars.

Avoid Pop-up Coupons

Scammers know that search engines are looking for fraud sites, so they spend the extra money to pay for ads. Legitimate ads are unobtrusive, and retailers don’t place them in spyware or adware systems. Malicious software uses popovers to push their coupons and sales paid for by scam dealers.Some authorized retailers show you pop-ups, but they go away when you exit them. Advertisers that use popups that then create more popups when you exit the window shouldn’t be trusted.

Be Careful of Social Media Advertisements

Social media does what it can to avoid scam advertisements, but they don’t catch them all. Scanners use social media because it’s a great place to drag naive users into their scheme. Plenty of legitimate retailers use social media as well, but you should always be careful with social media advertisements that point to unknown, questionable sites.

When you click on the ad and don’t know the retailer, take a minute to research the retailer. Look at the contact information. Legitimate retailers have a phone, physical address and customer service section. They have a return policy and put effort into their privacy policy. Stay away from sites that just leave an email address and don’t put any effort into policies that deal with returns, privacy, services and your data.

Don’t Scan Random QR Codes

Advertisers use QR codes to send smart phone users to their websites for deals and coupons. QR codes are those snail bar codes you scan into your device. They look similar to bar codes for tracking packages except you find them at a retailer’s cash register.

The problem with these codes is that anyone can create one and you don’t know what’s behind the code until you scan it. Scammers use them to send users to malicious websites that install malware or phish for user data. Scammers can even install software and steal data from your device. If you store private data such as bank account information or credit card numbers, the scanner has access to It.

Update your Antivirus Software before Shopping on your Desktop

If you decide to shop on a desktop, then update your antivirus software. Your antivirus software can only detect viruses if it has the updated files necessary to detect the latest and greatest malware. If you haven’t updated In a while, your antivirus is outdated and won’t protect you from the most recent malware in the wild.

You can also Install anti-malware on your smartphone. Smartphones are the latest target because most of them have no malware protection. However, It’s only necessary if you install random apps, shop from your phone or scan QR codes. Cyber Monday is an excellent time to find deals but you have to protect your data and your financial accounts. Having some common sense along with these tips you’ll avoid many of the scams this holiday.

Traveling is a lot of fun, but common vacation habits could put your personal data at rid( When you book a hotel, the bad guys could bewailing behind the scenes, ready to steal your credit card data. When you log on to the WI-Fl network at the nearby coffee shop, hackers could be sitting in the corner, using a spoof network to swipe your credentials.If you want to protect yourself from these dangers, you need to be proactive, checking the security policies of your chosen hotel chain and using caution when buying your plane tickets. Here are some smart ways to keep your personal data safe when traveling.

Steer Clear — Hotel and Airline Booking Sites

The number of legitimate travel comparison sites keeps sowing and now scam artists are taking advantage of the confusion. These fraudulent sites claim affiliations with airlines and hotel chains, duping travelers into giving up their login credentials.

Armed with those credentials, the bad guys use the information to drain accounts, book travel and wreak other financial havoc. The best way to protect yourself is to stick to the best-known sites if you do travel further a field, check the site carefully, looking for tell tale signs like poor grammar, misspelled words and a generic-looking webpage.

Research Hotel Security Before You Book

Hotels are increasingly becoming targets for scammers, so check out the security history of the drain you plan to stay with. A history of past breaches should be cause for concern, and possibly a reason to book elsewhere.

Restaurants are The Perfect Targets for Hackers

Any business that connects to the Internet is at risk of being a target for hackers. Many business owners make the mistake of thinking that they are too small for attackers to take interest In their data. These businesses make perfect targets for hackers. Restaurants are one example of a business that usually has minimal security, but they are good targets for hackers Interested in stealing credit card data. As a matter of fact, restaurants are among the growing trend of small businesses that make good targets for data thieves and hackers. The attackers becomes the “man In the middle” and listens to data passed from the customer’s computer to the Internet. The result is that the attacker can read unencrypted data and steal login credentials.

The only way to protect from this attack is to put a sign in a common area that announces your WI-FI SSID. This means that your customers will have no confusion over which connection is yours should an attacker set up a malicious hotspot. It doesn’t guarantee that your customers are safe, but it reduces the chance that they will conned to the malicious hotspot instead of the official one.

You can still put a password on your WI-FI connection and force your customers to ask for it if they want to connect This will limit the amount of corrections from people who aren’t your official customers.

In addition to protecting customer connections always keep your public WI-FI separated from the official internal network. Firewalls are used to separate the two connections, but some restaurant owners make the mistake of allowing public and private Internet connections to integrate together. When you have this type of infrastructure, you run the risk of slowing an attacker to access internal files.

Credit Card Processors and Encryption

It’s common knowledge for most website owners that any page requesting credit card information or private data must be encrypted. With restaurants it’s common to have wireless credit card processors and some of them don’t have proper encryption security. These machines can be located at the cashier, or some vendors provide devices that waiters and waitresses can carry around to each table. Some of these devices have poor security and pass credit card information from the device to the Wi-Fi connection unencrypted.

Hackers can read data passed from one location to another with no encryption enabled. This is how your customers’ credit card data gets stolen. Any device that offers credit card processing should have encryption enabled.

In 2013, Target was the victim of a large attack where millions of credit card numbers were lost to the attackers. After the investigation, it was found that the attackers were able to read credit card data stored in point-of-sale machine memory. These machines are common in retail stores as well as restaurants, so these businesses are also targets for the same kind of attack.

Newer machines likely have encryption when data is transferred, but always read the documentation for the equipment to ensure that they use encryption when transterring data. If you have older credit card processors, you should perform a check on them to make sure they use the right sectrIty.

Web-Based Attacks

Most businesses give employees Internet access. It’s essential far themto manage day-to-day tasks This advantages comes at a price. The price is the risk of web-based attacks Several attacks are created Just to steal data from internal networks, especially credit card data.

Ransom-ware and phishing attacks are the most common. Phishing attacks involve email. The attacker sends an email that lookalike it’s from an official vendor or financial Institute. The unsuspecting user clicks a link In the email that then takes them to a malicious website. If the user is tricked, the attacker gains access to login credentials.

The attacker can log in from the Internet and avoid any hacking at all If they have the victim’s credentials. Ransom ware can be even more devastating than a standard phishing attack. Ransom ware is used to hold data hostage will the victim pays the ransom. Some ransom-ware will son the network and encrypt even network data The data is encrypted and a message displays that tells the victim that they can have the key If they send a ransom. The ransom Is usually thousands of dollars, and for most people It’s better to pay the ransom rather than find a solution.

Stop the Stammers In Their Tracks —Spot a Credit Card Skimmer

Stammers use a lot of sophisticated tools to separate honest consumers from their money, from complicated computer viruses designed to record every keystroke you type to phishing emails that look of but actually lead to dangerous sites where all kinds of malware await you.

Those sophisticated attacks are dangerous In their own right, but one of the most successful tools used by stammers does not require you to go online. If you gas up the car and pay at the pump, pick up some staples at the grocery store or buy what you need at the local retail store, you could become a victim of lhis simple yet highly effective form of retail theft.

That piece of technology is known as the credit card skimmer, and thesetiny devices have been popping up everywhere. Credit card skinners are inexpensive to buy, simple to use and generally unobtrusive. That means you could be using one without even knowing that your credit card Information has been compromised.

If you do scan your credit or debit card through a skimmer, the bad guys can capture the Information recorded on that card’s magnetic strip and use that data to clone a new card. Armed with that information and the fake card they just created, the thieves can rack up fraudulent charges or even empty out your bank account. Click here to read about credit card fraud detection.

The good news is that even the best credit card skimmer can be spotted — if you know what to look for. Checking the scanner carefully before you swipe and being especially wary of payment systems in unmanned locations can protect you from this growing threat.

One of the most popular types of skimmers is the so-called overlay skimmer. As the name implies, these skimmers are designed to fit over the legitimate cad reader Sot on an ATM, retail payment system or gas pump. At first glance everything looks normal, but when you look a bit closer you may notice that the skimmer’s color does not quite match the original slot, or that it does not quite fit.

You should also look out for hidden cameras that thieves often plant around ATMs and unmanned payment stations like the ones you find at gas stations and automated lines at the grocery store. These cameras are designed to capture your PIN as you type It In, making 1t easy to use the boned card the bad guys create.

If you do spot something suspicious, let the retailer know right away. Retailers are victims of these credit card skimmersjust as much as consumers are, and they have a vested Interest to keep these devices off of their machines and out of their networks. Skimmers are getting better every day, and that means consumers need to stay vigilant to remain one step ahead of the thieves.

The Internet is no place for the naive. Scams and swindles of a wide variety proliferate, and every year millions of dollars are nabbed by unscrupulous con artists. Still, there is no reason for the average Internet user to despair. Common sense and an awareness of how the most popular cons operate will provide enough protection. Keep yourself safe by checking out the following eight tips for avoiding Internet scams.

Practice password (and PIN) safety. Your passwords always be your online data’s best layer of protection. A weak password is a needless risk; make all your passwords tough to crack by using at least eight characters and a mix of special characters, numbers, and upper-and lowercase letters. Avoid passwords that Incorporate your name or any other easily obtainable information. Similarly, if a site asks you to set a secret password reset question, choose something that only you would know. Don’t ever store passwords on your computer (memorize them Instead). Use different passwords for different sites so as to minimize the damage done If a password Is stolen. Periodically change all your passwords. And, of course, don’t reveal your passwords to anyone — especially not online.

Keep your computer Itself safe. Scanners love stealthily infiltrating a personal computer, from where they can harvest personal financial data. Since malware such as key loggers and spyware can operate inside a computer without the owner ever knowing. the best defense Is to install (and keep up-to-date) a quality antivirus application. Good antivirus software should stop almost all malware in its tracks. Internet browser and operating system updates (both of which come with security fixes) should also be regularly installed.

Watch for suspicious emails

Emails cons are the most common Internet scams. There are a few basic rules to know for safe email usage. First, remember that your credit card company or bank will never contact you via email asking for your account information or password. My unsolicited email requesting important data is likely a scam. Click here to learn more about debt consolidation loan.

If a strange or suspicious email arrives in your inbox, avoid opening it, and definitely do not follow any links or open any attachments It might contain. Smalls asking you to follow a link to reset a password, verify data, or login are always tricks. Remember to be a little cynical — an email from a charity you’ve never contacted night be a con designed to take advantage of the well intented.

Be careful on public WiFi.

Shopping, accessing your bank account, or inputting vital information of any sort over public wit Is not a good idea. The Issue is that public WiFi is often times unsecured, making it prime hunting ground for the dishonest. Since there Is no simple way to be sure that a particular public WiFi hotspot is protected or not, stay safe by far until you’re home.

Let your browser help. Modem Internet browsers come pre-equipped with numerous anti-scam features Understanding and making use of these features is smart For example, the latest versions of every major browser will contain an up-to-date database of dangerous websites — so, If your browser warns you when you try to visit a particular site, pay attention. If you want to explore how far does credit score go, click here.

Don’t trust pop-up ‘warning’.

Today, it is common for Internet users to encounter pop.up boxes warning that their computer is infected or has been breathed. These pop-ups are designed to Imitate genuine antivirus software — but what they actually do is install malware themselves Keep your computer and personal data rate from ‘shareware’ by closing any such pop-ups as soon as they show up. If it won’t close, escape from trouble by quitting out of your web browser entirely.

Don’t trust people asking for money. Sadly, many people who go to the Internet looking for love (or friendship) end up getting liked out of their ratings. Don’t let this happen to you. If, for example, someone you’ve met on a dating site starts asking for money, be very suspicious. Similarly, don’t automatically believe tales of woe that end with pleas for donations. Only trust claims that can be verified in some way.

If it’s too good to be true… It probably Is This old saying has a lot of truth to it. Many online scams operate by preying on the human desire to have something for nothing. Simply keeping your wits about you will go a long way towards protecting from most Internet scams. Slow down for a minute and make sure you aren’t about to be tricked.

….. Thanks for reading.