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8 identity theft prevention tips all online shoppers need to know

8 identity theft prevention tips all online shoppers need to know

Shopping online has become increasingly more common over the past decade, and for good reason. As an online shopper, you get to avoid checkout lines, scout different retail sites for the best prices, and shop at whatever time works for your schedule – all from the comfort of your own home. Yet, for many of us, the convenience of online shopping is overshadowed by concern with the new opportunities digital marketplaces provide for personal information to be captured and exploited. In fact, according to a 2018 survey of more than 2,000 Canadians, between five and twelve per cent of those surveyed had experienced identity theft and financial loss as a result of online activity.

Whether you’re already a seasoned cybershopper, or are still debating making your first online purchase, these eight identity theft prevention tips can help you to keep your personal information safe when shopping online:

1. Avoid making purchases on public WiFi.
Stumbling across free public WiFi can be helpful when you’re shopping in-store and want to do some last-minute price comparisons, but it’s best to avoid using public WiFi to buy items online. Public wireless networks are often unsecured, or use shared passwords, which makes it easier for hackers to get access to your personal information. 

Even if you’re at a restaurant or retail store that you trust, you should still avoid visiting sites that require you to input any of your personal info. Some digital thieves will go so far as to create a phony WiFi network that copies that of the business you are in, giving them immediate access to any information entered on their network. Ultimately, when it comes to online shopping and banking, it’s best to wait until you’re home.

2. Ensure your wireless network is secure.
When banking or shopping online at home, you’ll want to make sure that your own wireless network is secured with a strong password. If your wireless network is open, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to hackers who can log in to your network at any time. From there, the hacker can easily collect your personal information and website usage. This would enable an online thief or fraudster to create a duplicate profile of you that includes the websites that you visit and any non-encrypted login information stored on your network.

3. Check that the web address is secure.
Once you’ve verified that you’re using a secured network, you’ll need to ensure that the website itself is secure. A quick and easy way to do so is to look for an “https” and lock icon in the website address bar. The “https” and lock icon indicate that the website uses an encryption technology to protect the information processed through it – including your login information, passwords, credit card numbers and so on.

4. Resist the temptation of “an easier checkout”.
If you like the convenience of online shopping and are looking to streamline the process further, it can be easy to give in to an online retailer prompting you to store your login information for “an easier checkout experience”. Even if the website itself is secure, no retailer can ever be completely protected from data breaches and online attacks. Opt to check out “as a guest”, rather than setting up an account, to help protect your identity in the case of a breach.
5. Use a unique password for each site.
If it is necessary for you to make an account to check out, ensure that you are not re-using the same password across multiple websites. Doing so makes it incredibly easy for a criminal to capture a highly detailed profile of you and your personal information. When generating a password, it’s best to choose one that includes a long string of random letters, numbers and symbols.

6. Review your credit card bills regularly.
It’s good practice to review your credit card bills frequently in order to catch any suspicious transactions as quickly as possible. Be sure to take a look at your account balance and credit statements at least once a month to ensure there are no unknown transactions. If you do notice a transaction that you don’t recall making, or that seems ‘off’ in any way, contact your financial services provider immediately.

7. Use pre-paid gift cards.
The most effective way to protect your credit card information and avoid potential financial loss is to refrain from using your credit card online altogether. Instead, you can opt to purchase gift cards in-store for online purchases, or to purchase pre-paid credit cards that can be used on most retail sites – no personal information required.

8. Talk to your insurance broker about identity theft coverage.
Though no insurance policy can prevent your identity from being stolen, having identity theft coverage can help you get back to where you started in the unfortunate event that your personal information is compromised. Identity theft coverage can help to cover some of the financial loss incurred from the identity theft while you focus on restoring your finances and personal information.

If you’d like to inquire about identity theft coverage, contact your TW broker today 1-888-338-2685 to discuss your insurance options. 


1. Public Safety Canada