5 Ways to Keep Your Credit Cards Safe During the Holidays

The hack at Target that stole credit and debit card information from 40 million Americans happened just a year ago. If you want to avoid having your information stolen by hackers or garden variety thieves while shopping online, there are some smart steps you can take. Following are FOX Business Network’s Gerri Willis’ five steps for keeping your cards safe from the bad guys:

1. Use the Official App

If you use mobile apps to shop, make sure you download the app from the retailer's official site. Adam Levin, Identity Theft 911 chairman and founder, suggests making sure your mobile device -- phone or iPad -- has the latest anti-virus software. Watch for free apps that contain malware. If you are shopping on websites, only make purchases on websites with an SSL encryption. This is an added layer of protection. You can identify sites with this protection by looking for the "s" in https:// in the website's URL. A Better Business Bureau accreditation is a positive. Read user reviews.

2. Verify Emails

If you receive promotions or discounts via emails, make sure to verify the email is legitimate. Illegitimate emails may be filled with misspellings and bad grammar, though the thieves are getting more and more sophisticated every day. You're better off getting your coupons directly from retailers.

3. Don't Use Debit Cards Shopping Online

If you take precautions, credit cards are fine, but debit cards have fewer protections. Think about it. If a hacker or thief gets your debit card password, they can get directly into your bank account. Disputing charges on credit cards is far easier than disputing debit card claims. Watch out for gift cards. If you buy them from a virtual marketplace, you may get more than you bargained for, like a virus that infects your computer.

4. Use Secure WiFi When You are Shopping

Doing your holiday shopping from a coffee shop or local cafe can be a disaster. Remember you and another 50 million Americans are doing their shopping online, the thieves know that, and are targeting you wherever you are.

5. Don't Overshare on Social Media

Hackers are looking for potential victims. If your profile is too high on social media, hackers may pretend to be Facebook friends or send you a special offer or discount, claiming to be a retailer. Don't fall for it.

Gerri Willis joined Fox Business Network (FBN) in March of 2010. She is the host of The Willis Report (weekdays 5-6PM/ET), a primetime program that covers the leading financial and political stories of the day and their impact on consumers.

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