Identity theft online shopping

Protect yourself from identity theft when online shopping

Identity theft is common, so be proactive when shopping online. It's easier than trying to recoup your losses after the fact. Keep these identity and financial information protection tips in mind this holiday shopping season.

Recognize potential for identity theft

Look out for these red flags identified by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

  • A too-good-to-be-true price. If you find an item that is seemingly out of stock everywhere you've searched online, but is suddenly in-stock, and for a very low price, you might have stumbled upon a fake online store.
  • A website that seems sloppy. Most legitimate e-commerce retailers have put a fair amount of work into their sites. If you come across a site that is clumsily put together, you might want to search for a more professional-looking retailer to shop with.
  • Questionable ads or an abundance of ads. An illegitimate website will likely have ads for other illegitimate websites in banners, pop-ups, and other parts of the site. These ads may promote pirated movies or software to “protect” you from viruses.
  • Negative reviews from past customers. If people have written reviews that say they never received their items, were overcharged, etc., take note and consider another retailer online.

Shop online safely

Check out our handy list of dos and don'ts based on recommendations from the FTC.

DO

  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card, if possible. It is easier to recoup lost funds through credit card companies.
  • Check if the website uses a well-known payment processing service. Payment services generally do some research on a website to confirm they are legitimate before agreeing to contract with them. You can benefit from these companies' due diligence.
  • Make sure you receive an email confirmation of your purchase.
  • Check your credit card bill to make sure you were charged the correct amount. Screenshot or print the confirmation page at the end of checkout to ensure you have the receipt information.

DON'T

  • Don't save your payment information on a website, especially on one you have not used before.
  • Don't wire money. It is nearly impossible to get wired money back if your item never arrives.
  • Don't ever share personally identifiable information like Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or other sensitive information.

What to do if identity theft happens to you

The FTC also has recommendations about what to do if you suspect you are a victim of identity theft.

  • Notify affected creditors or banks. If you suspect that your credit card information or identity has been stolen, immediately freeze any accounts you think may have been affected. It is better to overreact than to underreact and lose valuable time.
  • Change all affected passwords. Changing your passwords as soon as you suspect identity theft is a great way to help limit damage that can be done.
  • Report the theft to the police and the Federal Trade Commission. They can provide documentation that states you have been a victim of identity theft/fraud. Copies of these reports will go a long way with creditors when reversing fraudulent charges.

Grinnell Mutual homeowners policy customers have access to identity theft help services through CyberScout. For immediate identity protection assistance, call 877-467-2252. For more information and tips, visit gmrc.myideducation.com.

Visit CyberScout resource center Learn how to report an identity theft claim