Here are eight ways to protect your identity during the holiday season

It’s the most wonderful – and the most worrisome – time of the year. According to a recent survey from Gallup, two-thirds of Americans are concerned that their sensitive information may get hacked or their identity stolen – far more than any other conventional crime. And with all the spending that occurs online during the holiday season, you can be sure thieves will be trying to exploit it.

The good news is there are things you can do to protect yourself. Here are eight practical ways you can start:

1. Exercise common sense and caution when making online purchases.  Do some research to see if the vendors you’re doing business with are reliable, and only make purchases from websites with https in the URL. Make sure that your end-of-year giving goes to credible charities and not to scams.

2. Hang on to your receipts. If there’s any fishy activity on your account, you can go back and demonstrate the discrepancy.

3. Don’t open suspicious digital holiday cards. Such emails often contain malware that once on your computer can be difficult and costly to remove.

4. Try as much as you can to use a credit card rather than debit cards when making online purchases. Generally speaking, credit cards offer far better protection than debit cards do, and purchases you make on them will likely be far safer.

5. Give practical gifts that will help your friends and loved ones protect themselves. Whether it’s software that can monitor and handle threats across multiple devices like your iPhone, iPad and laptop, or a smart home monitoring system that allows you to keep an eye on the place when you’re away, you can help the people you care about keep safe.

6. Don’t make transactions over a public network. As tempting as it is to shop while sitting in Starbucks sipping coffee – it ultimately isn’t very safe. Wait until you know you’re on a reliable secure network with effective protection in place.

7. Double-check the privacy settings on any shopping apps you might have, and limit the amount of personal data you allow them to share.

8. Create new passwords for each website that you use – and be particularly careful not to reuse passwords from highly-sensitive accounts, such as your email, bank or health care account. 

The holidays can be stressful enough without having to worry about your identity being stolen. By doing these few things, you can reduce the risk of would-be Grinches stealing the comfort and joy this season brings.

Thomas F. Kelly is president and CEO of ID Experts, a Portland, Oregon-based provider data breach and identity protection services such as MyIDCare. He is a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur and an expert in cyber security technologies.