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As high-tech holiday shopping surges, security becomes a priority

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Updated: 1/25/2013 10:39 am

(BPT) - Whether it's at the mall, on a computer or on a smartphone, the holiday shopping season is here. As shoppers hunt down the most coveted items, the best deals and the most convenient ways to get them, where and how they shop is evolving. With the increasing ease of shopping online or on a mobile device, new concerns are rising about how to shop securely.

The holidays are a high time for identity thieves - they know that more people will be shopping online, and potentially exposing their personal information. Online holiday shopping has grown steadily over the past few years, and that trend is expected to continue into this year, with some estimates predicting $54 billion in ecommerce spending.

While the Internet has been the center point for much holiday shopping in recent years, surveys have also shown that as many as 21 million consumers plan to make a purchase from their mobile device. It seems certain that criminals will be turning their attention to mobile as well.

Protecting yourself as you shop online or via mobile is as essential as remembering everyone on your gift list. Follow these tips to help keep your identity safe throughout the holiday season.

* Be choosy about shopping apps. When you're downloading apps for shopping, it's important that you get them from a trusted source, such as the maker of the products you're trying to buy, or a major retailer. Those companies are going to do everything they can to ensure a safe shopping experience for you. Apps from companies you've never heard of - particularly if they're advertising unbelievable deals - should draw suspicion.

* Monitor your accounts and credit report. If someone has stolen your identity and is using it to make purchases and run up debts, the activity will affect your credit. That's why it's important to pay attention to your credit reports in addition to your bank accounts. A credit monitoring and identity theft protection product like Equifax Complete(TM) provides you with 24/7 monitoring and the ability to set up alerts if fraud is detected, as well as access to an identity theft specialist.

* Watch out for Wi-Fi. From airports to coffee shops, people rely on Wi-Fi networks to get on the Web while they're on the go. But shopping - and entering your payment information - over a Wi-Fi connection can be risky. If it's unsecured, the information you enter could be intercepted by criminals and used to drain your accounts or steal your identity.

* Beware of email scams. If you receive an email with a link to too-good-to-be true offers, think twice before clicking. Simply clicking through could trigger a malware attack on your computer - and it might not even be noticeable. If you're not sure whether an email is legitimately from a particular store, go to their main site and double check to see if the offer is available there.

Being savvy about security will ensure that your holidays are filled with cheer, rather than the headaches of recovering from identity theft. Adding an extra layer of protection, in the form of a monitoring product, can also help give you peace of mind and keep your priorities focused on celebrating the season. For more information on credit and other personal finance issues, visit www.blog.equifax.com.

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