The holiday season is a prime opportunity for hackers to steal considerable amounts of money and credentials from unwary shoppers, both online and in-store. When a lot of customers spend so much money, it’s inevitable that some of these credentials will be stolen by hackers seeking to snatch a credit card number or personal data. How can you protect yourself from a threat that’s not necessarily handled directly by you?

Take, for example, the data breach suffered by Target not too long ago. How can users protect themselves when their data is in the hands of a company that doesn’t handle it in the best way? The data breach, which happened around the holiday season, created to a large number of victims, all of whom could have experienced considerable risk of identity theft or worse. Imagine if you were one of these victims and you get a call after the holiday season that someone has stolen your identity; certainly not the jolliest gift of all.

There are a few ways for you to protect yourself while shopping for gifts for your loved ones. We’ll walk you through some of your options.

Make Sure Encryption is In Use
Before you plug in any information into a payment field, make sure that the website that you’re on is using encryption of some sort. By this, we mean that the data collected by the website or online store is distorted and protected against anyone who might be watching. If a site is equipped with HTTPS technology, hackers won’t be able to steal information, like your credit card information, quite as easily. Even if they do, the data will be so scattered that they will have to work much too hard just to make their efforts worthwhile. Make sure that you’re only shopping from trusted retailers as well, rather than some seedy spots on the Internet that you’ve never heard of.

Just Use Cash
If you don’t want to dangle your credit card information out on a line this holiday season, you can just use cash. Just don’t try to carry too much cash on you at any given time. After all, you might be able to dodge some online thieves, but you may not be able to completely mitigate the risks of theft or loss if you decide to carry around a lot of cash.

Use an Online Wallet
Have you ever tried using Apple Pay or Android Pay? You can use this app to act as a middleman for your payments–all you do is add funds to your online wallet, then use the app to make a purchase that’s relatively risk-free. The popularity of smartphones make this option much more appealing than it ever was before, but be sure to do your research to make sure that the retailer you’re shopping at actually accepts these methods of payment.

For more great tips and tricks, subscribe to Aspire’s blog.

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