ST. PAUL - The holiday shopping season is a busy time. In the rush to buy gifts for family and friends, don't get so busy that you put yourself at risk for fraud or identity theft.
The Minnesota Commerce Department offers tips to help you protect your money and identity when shopping online.
Regularly review your accounts
Check your bank and credit card accounts for any unauthorized activity. Set up online access so you can take a few minutes every week to log on and confirm recent transactions. Or set up automatic account alerts so you receive a text or email whenever there is a new charge.
Use credit, not debit cards
Credit cards offer stronger legal protection for fraudulent charges, including the ability to dispute charges and temporarily withhold payment. Your liability is generally limited to $50. If a thief successfully uses your debit card, the money is immediately withdrawn from your bank account.
Know who you're buying from
When shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, you know the business and inventory of products really exist. Online shopping is more convenient, but carries some risks. On the web, some businesses are fabricated by crooks who just want to your credit card number and other personal information for identity theft. To play it safe, do business online only with retailers you know you can trust.
Watch out for email scams
During the holidays your email box may get filled with "special offers" or messages asking for confirmation of an order or shipment. Scam artists try to confuse you with legitimate-looking emails that trick you into clicking on a link that sends you to a fake website or downloads malware on your device. Instead, open a new browser window and go to the official store site to log in to your account.
Don't do your online shopping on a public Wi-Fi network
Do your online shopping at home on a secure Wi-Fi network. Use of a public Wi-Fi network may allow someone to intercept your credit card numbers or passwords. Never make transactions on a public computer such as at a library, hotel or airport. It may be infected with spyware or malware.