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Stay Informed, Protected During National Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month

December 7, 2020

While consumers are busy shopping for holiday gifts this holiday season, the National Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency wants shoppers to stay on high alert—especially this year--while so many are shopping online and from mobile devices with digital credit/debit card information, as opposed to using cash in-person inside of stores.  

According to the Agency, “The holiday season is a prime time for hackers, scammers, and online thieves. Due to the pandemic, this holiday season may look and feel a bit different, but we all still need to be aware of the potential dangers online shopping can bring and the ways we can protect ourselves. While millions of Americans will be online looking for the best gifts and deals, hackers will be looking to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers by searching for weaknesses in their devices or internet connections or attempting to extract personal and financial information through fake websites or charities.”

Here are a few easy steps you can take to make sure you are protected:

1. Check Your Devices: Keep settings on your browser’s and mobile device’s software up-to-date, because those updates often include added security and protection. Additionally, check your device privacy and security settings to make sure you understand how your personal information is used or stored. This also might be a good time to go over your bank account, email, and online shopping passwords to ensure they are strong.

2. Shop Smart: While it is a tempting time to shop around for the best deals and quickest delivery times, it’s also imperative that you shop through trusted websites and vendors. When possible, shop online at home, so you know your personal information is being transmitted through a secured WIFI network. The best advice when it comes to shopping through reputable vendors is to trust your gut. If the website looks suspicious, you might be right.

Keep in mind, also, that cybercriminals know how to lure in victims through fake phishing emails, touting shopping deals and other appealing offers. These emails are so well-designed that they may just look like they are from your favorite stores, but they could contain malicious links asking for your personal finance information. If it looks suspicious, it probably is! Read more about how to spot a phishing email at

If you receive a suspicious email that looks like it could be a phishing email, report it here.

3. Use Safe Methods of Payment: Experts recommend you use credit cards to make online purchases because there are laws in place to limit consumers’ liability for fraudulent credit card charges. Additionally, when using third party payment methods like PayPal, Google Wallet, or Apple Pay, make sure those funds are coming from a credit card as opposed to a debit card—at least during the busy online holiday shopping season. It is also a good idea to stay on top of your bank account via online and/or mobile banking, as well as your credit card statements to monitor for fraudulent or suspicious activity.

If you have accidentally compromised your personal information in any way (via device hacking, link clicking, or data breach), contact the Federal Trade Commission online at or by phone at 1-877-438-4338 to report your incident, gather recovery steps, and track your recovery plan.

For more information on Identity Theft Protection, and to access free resources, go to

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