With recent advancements in technology, tax fraud, identity theft, and so much more is becoming an even bigger security threat than traditional theft itself. Holiday season means Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner, which also means shopping season is coming soon!

Online shopping also means that there’s a lot to be cautious about! The IRS listed phishing as the most common cybercrime method, listed number one on the Dirty Dozen list of tax scams for 2018. How can you cyber shop safely? What actions can you take to prevent identity theft and tax fraud?

Here, we summarized nine reminders during this online shopping season—be super careful during tax season!

1) Non-payment / Non-delivery scams

According to the FBI, non-delivery of merchandise is mostly associated with online fraud in which a seller accepts payment but fails to ship the item intentionally. Sellers make the online shopping sites look legitimate, leading consumers to fill out their personal information such as their full name, phone number, address, bank account information, and more.

To avoid this kind of fraud, make purchases on a trusted and secure site. It might help to check if their address and phone number actually exist, and if their products have warranty. It’s also recommended to purchase items with a credit card because if something goes wrong, you can dispute the charge.


2) Use safe and secure sites that you can trust or are familiar with

Shop at familiar online retailers and make sure there is an “s” in the “https” at the start of the URL. The “s” indicates that the site is secure. If it comes to a time where you will need to input your date of birth, Social Security number, bank account information, etc., make sure to check if the URL shows “http” or “https”. Some sites are also spelled incorrectly so make sure to double check that as well.


3) Don’t give out your Social Security Number in public networks or places you are unfamiliar with


4) Pay attention to your billing statement

Make sure to check your bank account periodically so that you can see if there is any unusual activity. Make sure to check your accounts on PayPal, Venmo, and more.


5) Pay special attention to these places

Small businesses, subway ticketing stations, gas stations, and ATM machines are all common places where credit card fraud occurs. If you notice any kind of damage on card machines, no lock, or loose buttons on the keypad, you must be extra cautious and even more careful!


6) Track your credit card purchases

Set up alerts and notifications for large credit card purchases. Banks are much more advanced now, adding geolocation to the banking mobile app, tracking and letting you know the location of the cardholder and the location of the credit card purchase.

Should I sign my name on the back of my credit card?

It’s been said that instead of signing your name, writing “See ID” could work. It’s hard to give an exact answer, however there haven’t been many encounters in which cashiers actually check for your name on your ID,  making it even less likely that they even look at the back of your card for your signature.


7) Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi

Don’t use unprotected Wi-Fi or hotspots. Thieves can view all your transactions. In public places, do not login to any banking accounts or make any transactions or money transfers using public Wi-Fi. Many shopping centers, malls, Starbucks, coffee shops, and more offer free Wi-Fi. With just a simple function, all of your information will go through the public network, exposing your information as if it were a radio station broadcasting your information all over the public network!


8) Create a strong and secure password (be smart about it!)

Be wise when setting a password. For example, pet names and honeymoon places are really easy to find on your social media pages. Representatives from the IRS would like to remind everyone to not use the “remember password / auto-fill” feature on your phone or computer. They also recommend getting into the habit of updating your password regularly.


9) What’s the best anti-virus software?

Aside from installing anti-virus software it’s also important to update your computer’s software on a routine basis. This is the fastest, most effective way to prevent viruses from attacking your computer. Though there may be thousands of viruses, an updated computer system can fight against them.

What happens if you accidentally click on a potentially harmful link? What should you do? In this case, you should contact the police and freeze your account ASAP! You may also want to take legal action to protect your rights.