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Online shopping is convenient, but leaves you open to fraud—here's how to protect yourself

The holiday season is prime time for fraudsters to steal your personal information. Here's how to protect yourself while shopping online.

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Completing your holiday shopping online is convenient, but it can leave you open to fraud. The holidays are a peak time for thieves to take advantage of consumers that are buying more items and can therefore easily miss fraudulent charges amid a long list of transactions.

When you shop online or from your mobile device, you may be targeted by fraudsters that send you fake emails or texts advertising too-good-to-be-true deals (known as phishing). If you click on an unverified link, you may unknowingly give your credit card number to a thief who can use it to rack up unauthorized charges.

While credit card fraud can happen in numerous ways, there are actions you can take to safeguard your information. There’s no way to prevent fraud from happening online, but there are actions you can take to limit your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.

We’ve rounded up 14 steps you can follow to protect yourself from credit card fraud during the holidays — and any time of the year.

How to protect yourself from online credit card fraud

Review your credit card transactions

Regularly log into your credit card accounts and check that the transactions listed were made by you or any authorized users. If you notice anything suspicious, contact your card issuer right away to dispute the transaction.

Sign up for transaction alerts

In addition to manually checking your credit card accounts, add another layer of protection by creating transaction alerts. You can set up alerts for transactions that exceed a certain limit, purchases made internationally, balance transfer requests and more.

Freeze your credit

A credit freeze restricts access to your credit reports, helping prevent fraudsters from opening new accounts in your name. Make sure you freeze your credit with all three credit bureausExperian, Equifax and TransUnion. (Learn how to freeze your credit.)

Consider credit monitoring services

Credit monitoring services like CreditWise® and IdentityForce® can provide you with an early notice of potential fraud on your credit report(s), so you can take action to protect your personal information. These services check for changes to your card balance, new accounts opened in your name and may even scan the dark web for signs of your personal information.

Sign up for an identity theft protection service

Identity theft can be a big headache to resolve, especially around the holidays, but signing up for an identity theft protection service can protect you. Services like Identity Guard and LifeLock® scan the dark web, alert you of data breaches, and track misuse of your social security number. Plus a hallmark of these services is identity theft insurance, which reimburses you for expenses, like lawyers and stolen funds, when your identity is compromised.

Don’t use public WiFi

If you’re at a café or the library, avoid using the public WiFi since these networks aren’t secure. It can be easier for fraudsters to hack your device when you make purchases on public WiFi.

Check that websites start with “https”

Before completing a purchase online, check that the URL begins with “https” and that there’s a small lock icon that confirms it’s a secure site.

Don’t answer spam calls or texts

Spam calls are in full force during the holidays, and many thieves have also started texting fraudulent links. Avoid clicking on anything and don’t even pick up a spam call. You can block the sender to avoid future messages from them.

Verify deals from social media ads

You may receive targeted ads on social media from companies that you’ve never heard of boasting amazing deals, but before you click to make a purchase, verify it’s legitimate. Do a simple online search for the merchant and read reviews to make sure you can safely complete a transaction.

Don’t click on links or open attachments from unknown senders

If you receive an email from an unknown sender, don’t click on the link or open the attachment since there’s a good chance it’s a phishing attempt to get your personal information. Simply delete the message and block the sender.

Opt-out of saving your credit card information

If you want to be extra careful, avoid saving your credit card information on your web browser, phone or loyalty account. This protects unauthorized transactions if someone hacks your account or device.

Use virtual card numbers

Select cardholders have access to virtual card numbers, which are unique, single-use randomly-generated numbers that link to your account when you make online purchases. This provides an additional layer of protection for your real credit card number. Capital One and Citi card members can create virtual card numbers when you shop online.

Set strong passwords

Ensure that your passwords are complex and contain lowercase and uppercase characters, numbers and special characters. Also don’t reuse passwords. Since you likely have dozens of online accounts, consider saving them in a password manager like 1Password or LastPass.

Turn on two-factor authentication

Many online accounts let you set up two-factor authentication, which provides an added layer of security. You can receive a one-time unique code sent directly to your phone, potentially stopping fraudsters in their tracks.

Don’t miss: Best credit cards for holiday shopping

To learn more about IdentityForce®, visit their website or call 855-979-1118.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.