As we enter the holiday season be aware not only consumer activity will be on the rise but criminals ramp up their efforts to gain access to personal information through various channels as well; phishing e-mails prompting clicking on links, text messages prompting a return call to provide information, phony businesses on social networks with malicious code ready to be installed, and non-legitimate websites claiming to have the "hot" gift of the season.

Along with usual awareness keep in mind some rules of thumb:

Never click on a link.

Never open attachments.

Never give out personal information over the phone, e-mail or text unless completely sure.


Here are some additional tips to help protect your personal information through the increasingly utilized online shopping channel:

Keep your computer, browser, anti-virus and other critical software up to date.

Only buy from reputable sites and pay attention to URLs. Malicious websites may look similar to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).  Also look in the address box for the "s" in https:// before any transaction. That tells you that the site is taking extra measures to help secure your information.

Beware of deals that sound too good to be true. Use caution when opening email attachments and do not follow unsolicited web links in email messages and pay special attention to extremely low prices on hard-to-get items.

Check privacy policies. Before providing personal or financial information, check the website's privacy policy to ensure your safety.

Keep a record of your order. Retain all documentation from the order in the event your purchase does not ship or if there are unauthorized charges on your bill.

Check your statements. Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages, and compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.

These simple tips will help you protect your personal information throughout the holiday season as well as throughout the year.