Don’t Let Hackers Ruin Your Holidays Warns Guard Street!

Industry: Fraud

10 Data breach protection tips from privacy company founder Vince Mazza - just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Chicago, IL (PRUnderground) November 10th, 2014

With the holiday shopping season here, we are reminded of the importance of protecting ourselves online.  

Major data breaches have been in the news regularly as thieves have made off with sensitive data from millions of consumers.  By being aware and taking precautions, we can prevent ourselves from being victims of cybercrime, hackers, ID theft, viruses and more.

A new survey by CreditCards.com indicated that as data breaches exposing consumer credit, debit card and other personal information become more common, nearly half of cardholding shoppers say they’re reluctant this holiday season to return to stores that have been hacked.  According to Vince Mazza, privacy advocate and co-founder of Guard Street™, “You can’t depend on your favorite retailer to protect your information from cybercrime, hackers, big data marketers and ID theft. You must actively manage your security and privacy.”

With the consequences of cybercrime getting worse, consumers need to take control of their cyber security this holiday season especially during the most common activity they could be exposed to danger – shopping!

Guard Street recommends ten ways to protect yourself:

1. Shop securely and anonymously.  Use a secure virtual private network (VPN) to shield cybercriminals and hackers from tracking your online activity from your mobile device, desktop or laptop.  Be wary of free Wi-Fi or VPN, it may cost you with a loss of privacy.  You should also configure your browser to repel many trackers.  Additionally, use a disposable email address should you need to enter an email address to enter websites or gain access to information.  Try www.privacymart.com for disposable email addresses.

2. Do your homework on sellers before doing business.   Some hackers try to trick you by creating malicious websites that appear legitimate, so you should verify the site before supplying any information.  Locate and note phone numbers and physical addresses of vendors in case there is a problem with your transaction or your bill. Search for merchant reviews.

3. Stop and think before sharing information.  Question why do they need it and how is it being used?  Don’t provide the information if you are unsure about the legitimacy of the request.  Be careful of links taking you to sites that ask for your personal information.  If an organization asks for your social security number to validate your identity, request another question.

4. Watch your transactions. When paying online make sure you have a secure connection.  There are two ways to determine if there is a secure connection.  First, look for “https” and not just “http” at the start of a merchant’s web address.  The “S” means the transaction is “secure”.  Another way to determine if the connection is secure is to see a bright green box and padlock graphic in the address bar of most browsers.  Check either one of these before entering personal or payment information.

5. Stay on top of your statements.  Review credit card statements every month for any unauthorized charges and make sure to keep an eye on the smaller charges.  Thieves will charge smaller amounts to test to see if you notice and then change larger amounts later.

6. Keep an eye on your credit score.  Check your credit report for any accounts that crooks may have opened in your name.  AnnualCreditReport.com is a free site where you can retrieve your credit reports.

7. Beware of email scammers.  With big data breaches being exposed in the media, scammers have crawled out of the depths looking to steal personal information.  Some emails may mention big retailers who were hacked including Home Depot or they may offer free credit monitoring – never click on these links!  Many are fake sites that try to steal bank information or passwords.  Mazza indicated that, “If an email looks creditable from a retailer, go to the retailers site directly instead of clicking on links.”

8. Keep a clean machine.  Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.

9. Strong passwords.  Make them long and strong.  Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password.

10. Unique account, use a unique password.  Using separate passwords for every account helps obstruct hackers and cybercriminals.

The key to data security this holiday season is to take a holistic approach and that includes following precautions and using several protection tools.  According to Mazza, “We can’t control criminals or how big and small retailers protect data they may have about us, but we can take control of our privacy through protective measures.  While no protection on the planet is 100% when dealing with criminals, consumers can drastically reduce the chances of being hacked, tracked or have their data stolen.  Looked at another way, not being protected drastically increases your odds of being a victim. You can enjoy the holidays and protect yourself from those Grinch-like hackers.”

About Guard Street

Guard Street is based just outside of Chicago, Illinois and offers consumers’ packages of privacy protection tools that when activated create a personal data locking system. For additional privacy news, tips for securing your personal data and information about the program visit www.guardstreet.com or call 1-800-517-4550.

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