idtheftIt’s the most wonderful time of the year – and for a lot of us, that means holiday shopping. But how careful are you when you’re entering personal information online to purchase gifts for your loved ones?

“Today’s technological landscape allows us to share more of our personal information online, whether we’re updating our social media profiles or shopping,” says Gary Hoberman, executive vice president at MetLife. “Because our sensitive data can be found in many different places across the Internet, it’s important for families to learn how to protect themselves.”

According to recent reports, experts predict that consumers will spend $89 billion online this gift-giving season (Forrester). With the holidays right around the corner, it’s important to practice safe shopping habits to prevent risks like identity theft or financial fraud.

* Identity theft awareness

The ease of making quick bank transactions over public Wi-Fi or purchasing last-minute gifts online may make your life easier, but it could also lead to the exposure of your financial information or even identity theft.

To keep your data safe, it’s a good idea to routinely change your passwords and stay away from using your birthdate, your name or even your pet’s name, as this information can be easily discovered on the Internet.

* Cyber security tips this holiday season

1. Keep it a secret: When shopping online, provide the minimum amount of information necessary to complete your order and be wary of questions that seem unrelated to your purchase. Maintaining privacy is the best way to ensure fraud protection.

2. Don’t click to win: If an email or social media post seems suspicious, delete it or mark it as spam. Some have malware embedded within them set to attack your computer files. Exit out of new windows and turn on your browser’s pop-up blocker.

3. Avoid public Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi hotspots are unsecured networks that criminals use to distribute malware. If you are shopping online for gifts, it’s best to make sure you do so from a secure network rather than transmitting your sensitive data over public Wi-Fi.

4. Read privacy policies: As tedious as it seems to read the fine print on a website, it’s a smart idea to make sure that your information won’t be sold to third-party marketers. Be aware of who has access to any information that is shared with a company to avoid credit card fraud or identity theft.

5. Be proactive: Educate yourself on safe Internet practices so you can be in-the-know and avoid threats like identity theft before they become reality.

6. Get protected: Sign up for a free 30-day trial of MetLife Defender, a comprehensive personal data protection service that will monitor and protect you and your family’s important information online.

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