13 Dos and Don’ts for protecting your identity during the holidays

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travelers in an airport
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Nearly four million travelers are expected to take to the skies for Thanksgiving travel this week. In addition, another nearly 46 million folks will hit the roads, according to the American Automobile Association.

That makes this an ideal time for a reminder about mobile data safety when you’re in airports and other places where wireless connections may be less than secure!

RELATED: This will be the busiest Thanksgiving for travel in a decade, says AAA

Here’s how to keep your data private during the holidays

Take care to do this…

Skip the public Wi-Fi

You should never perform any financial transactions on free public Wi-Fi because hackers are known to create fake networks with the same names as public hot spots. Once you’re on these bogus networks doing banking or investing, they can take all your data and all your money.

Keep your operating system updated

Always make sure you install the latest software updates from your operating system. These often include security and protection updates to help protect your device.

Enable two-step verification

Two-step verification is your friend. The most common type of two-step verification involves a four-digit code sent to you via text message to prove that you are who you say you are before a transaction.

Other kinds of two-step verification such as fingerprint or facial identification work well, too. Each will help provide an added layer of security.

Have a different password for each financial site

Your bank, credit union, brokerage account, etc. should each have a unique password.  If one happens to get compromised, at least the crooks won’t have automatic access to every other financial account in your life.

Here are seven ways to create safer passwords for all your accounts.

Keep your malware updated

Make sure you install malware protection and make sure that it is updated. Our Virus, Spyware and Malware Protection Guide is a great way to find free and effective options.

Check your statements diligently

This is a tip for all seasons; you should always go through your bank statement line-by-line on a daily basis and report any suspicious charges immediately — no matter what time of year. It pays to be one step ahead of the criminals!

With a credit card, you typically have up to 60 days to dispute any phony charges, so you have a bit more breathing room there to suss out any bogus charges.

Shed any apps that you’re not using anymore

It’s wise to go through your phone periodically and uninstall any apps you no longer need. With the disturbing nature of app permissions, you can rest assured you’re limiting your exposure to potential security holes that app developers may or may not know about.

Use a burner phone

If you’re really concerned with mobile safety this holiday season, you might consider using a “burner” or loaner phone that you just have with you for your travels. If the phone or data somehow becomes corrupted, at least the unwanted intrusion can be limited to that handset without compromising your main phone.

Whatever you do, don’t do this…

Don’t tinker with your OS

Particularly if you have an iPhone, you should resist the temptation to fool around with your operating system. People sometimes mess around with their iOS because they want to download apps that aren’t sanctioned by Apple. Don’t do it! Tinkering with your operating system can expose you to threats you wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.

Don’t blindly trust any old financial-related download

Need to bank on the go? Be sure you only install your bank, credit union or brokerage firm’s official apps that you find at their websites. Never trust a financial download from any place other than the originating source.

Don’t blindly trust text messages or emails from banks

Even if you’ve signed up for texts from your bank, it pays to be a little extra skeptical this holiday season.

When that SMS comes in, do the following: First, get off your phone. Next, get onto a secure network (preferably from a computer with good anti-virus software on it). Only then should you log into your bank’s official website. This will help you avoid being phished by scammers who make professional-looking messages in an effort to separate you from your money.

Don’t click on strange texts

Android users got a real scare a couple of years ago when a report emerged that they could be hacked by text message.

Don’t download apps while traveling

Life isn’t perfect, so we know this rule sometimes gets broken. To limit the potential danger, be sure you’re diligent about only downloading from the App Store or Google Play.

RELATED: 8 ways to avoid car rental ripoffs this holiday season

Don’t get faked out by holiday airfare deals

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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