During the holiday shopping season, millions of Americans will take advantage of the convenience, speed and ease of online shopping: Spot it, love it, click it, and it’s on the way.
A recent survey found that 77 percent of respondents said they shop on the Internet, and the National Retail Federation predicts online sales during November and December to jump 8 to 11 percent from 2013, accounting for $105 billion.
Yet Americans have mixed feelings about the act of using credit or debit cards to buy something online: Many consumers—more than half (56 percent) of respondents—already have experienced information compromise in a retail breach, according to the survey by the Identity Theft Resource Center, sponsored by CyberScout.
Plus, more than 59 percent of people are either “extremely concerned” (26.2 percent) or “moderately concerned” (32.9 percent) that shopping online will put them at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft, the survey said.
High-profile data breaches at major retailers recently also have put a damper on shoppers’ holiday cheer, whether it’s online or off-line. When we asked respondents how concerned they were about identity theft originating from a breach at retailers such as Target, Michaels, Nordstrom or Home Depot, 39.8 percent said they were “extremely concerned.”
With all this fretting, you’d think consumers would be on high alert, checking their credit card and banking statements more often and keeping personal data close to the chest. But 41.6 percent of respondents said they didn’t check such statements more often during the holidays compared with other times of the year. And while online shopping, many consumers have or are willing to share unnecessary pieces of personally identifiable information:
• 75% birthday
• 47% mother's maiden name
• 31% birthplace
• 20% PIN
• 16% drivers license
• 14% Social Security number
• 7% relative’s birthday
CyberScout has a few simple suggestions for online shoppers this holiday season:
1. Shop on secure sites. Only use websites with “https” in the URL and a yellow padlock in the browser bar. Double-click on the lock to see a digital certificate of the website. Review these certificates on unfamiliar sites.
2. Never enter personal information, especially your Social Security number or password, to email and bank accounts as part of the buying process with online retailers.
3. Leave suspicious websites immediately. Don’t click on any of the site’s buttons, run content or download software.
4. Use a credit card, not a debit card. Your debit card is cash. If you buy from a fake website, it’s gone . . . and it’s hard to get back.
5. Consider using a virtual credit card number, instead. These are single-use (also called disposable, secure or virtual) credit card numbers. A single-use credit card number is basically an alias for your actual credit card number offered by most of the major credit card issuers. When shopping online, you use this number instead of your real account number. Purchases that you make with your temporary number show up on your statement like all of your other transactions.
Finally, if you suspect you're a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your identity, check with your insurance company, financial institution, or employee benefits provider. Many companies offer LifeStages™ Identity Management Services from CyberScout for low or no cost. To learn more, visit CyberScout.com or call 1-888-682-5911.