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How to Stay Safe Online

Many shoppers this season are skipping the lines and redirecting their consumer traffic to the web. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, retail sales online have steadily increased quarter-over-quarter for more than a decade. The U.S. is now seeing over $100 billion in retail sales online per quarter. With so many business transactions and even social interactions being done on the web nowadays, it is vital that consumers understand how to use their personal information in the safest way possible.

Benefits.gov is here to share helpful resources and inform you about online safety. We have listed some helpful tips provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) below:

  1. Don’t share too much information. Be aware of sensitive, personally identifiable information when online – like your birthday and year, address, phone number, credit card number, and Social Security number (SSN). This type of information should never be posted on social media sites. Some of it may be required when shopping online, but always be especially selective when using your credit card number and SSN with well-known and verified sites that you trust.  
  2. Be careful about what you post. The Internet isn’t private. Once you share a post, picture, or video, you can’t control how others will use it, and it can never be permanently deleted. Always be thoughtful and cautious in what you post and share online.
  3. Only connect with people you know. Anyone can easily create fake profiles to hide their identities, so be sure to only connect with friends you actually know in real life. Also check your privacy settings to be sure you are only visible to people you know, if that is what you prefer.
  4. Keep your location private. Many apps, networks, and devices have geo-tagging features which broadcast your location. This information could lead to a hacker finding your current location, pinpointing where you live, and/or knowing when you are not home. So be sure to check that these features are completely turned-off, unless you are intentionally sharing your location with a trusted family member or friend.
  5. Protect your password. Create strong passwords and make sure to never share them with anyone (except trusted family members or friends).

Identity theft can occur when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number or other identifying information, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. To avoid this type of fraud, please use the above tips while you are shopping online, opening emails, or browsing websites. You can also find more information about Identity Protection on Benefits.gov and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), especially as it relates to filing your taxes.

This holiday season, please stay safe with your information and be smart when you visit sites online. We hope you use these resources to ensure your experience is a safe and enjoyable.

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