Experts urge consumers to protect identity, financial info while holiday shopping

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — With the holiday shopping season just around the corner, experts say it’s important to keep an eye out for potential scams and attempts by thieves to gain control over your identity and financial information.

Tom Gorup, the director of security operations for Rook Security, says because people are “typically” looking to spend plenty of money this time of year, so hackers and scammers step up their attacks. It’s a fact that rings especially true on days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“When there’s mass movement around something, and everybody knows about it attackers immediately take hold,” he said.

Gorup says a consumer’s drive to find the best deals during Black Friday or Cyber Monday is what attackers usually use as bait for their phishing and identity scams.

“If you look at it from a business perspective, if I have to cold call you and encourage you to do something, it’s going to be a lot more difficult than if there’s a seed planted. You really want to know more, you just don’t know where to get it. I’m giving you what feels like the right thing,” he said.

Gorup says one of the keys to protecting your information online is practicing caution, particularly when it comes to deals offered through emails or third-party sites.

“If it looks too good to be true, go to the website, and use the website direct, don’t use the link in the email, don’t use the link in Facebook, or Twitter, go straight to it. If it feels funny chances are it’s probably bad,” he said.

Often times, Gorup says you can tell a link is bogus or part of a phishing scam by looking at its URL, which can often have misspellings or different characters from the company it proclaims to represent.

Others, like financial expert Peter Dunn, say doing things like freezing your credit, frequently checking your online bank accounts and running a credit report at the end of the year can help you stay on top of any suspicious activity.

“It’s a little sad I have to say you have to have a plan to protect yourself this holiday season, but you know what, you have to have to have your head on a swivel so you can protect yourself from thieves this holiday season,” Dunn said.

Dunn says it’s even important for consumers to monitor what they are throwing in the trash as discarded financial documents or receipts can lead to financial information or identities being compromised.

“Thieves love to dig through trash this time of year looking at what you got for your gifts and looking at ways to identify themselves as you,” Dunn said.

Dunn says one of the best ways to protect your information is by freezing your credit. While the freeze would prevent you from doing something such as opening another credit card, it would also prevent any potential thieves from accessing your credit and creating accounts in your name. For more information on how to freeze your credit you can visit here.

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