Christmas Shopping Tips to Protect Your Privacy

December 12, 2012

Commissioner Jill Clayton is reminding consumers and businesses to be especially vigilant in protecting personal information from thieves and fraudsters during this holiday shopping season.

Tips for Consumers

Stay alert for cyber-crooks who would make merry with your online personal information. Some privacy tips for online shopping are:

  • Research your merchant – look at the merchant’s privacy and security policies and customer ratings prior to making any purchase online.
  • Make sure when entering personal information online that the website is secure.
  • Reputable merchants usually send you an email confirming your order. If you do not receive an email confirmation, follow up with the merchant immediately.
  • Use a low limit credit card for online purchases and one that provides you with specific guarantees, such as 100% coverage for any losses due to fraud when shopping on the web.
  • Make sure your computer security is up-to-date to protect against spyware, adware, malware and other Internet attacks.
  • Do not use the same username and password at every website. If your personal information is compromised, a thief will not get very far if you use different passwords and usernames on different websites.
  • Never share your website passwords and online banking account information with anyone.
  • Do not get fooled by extraordinary offers. If a product or service looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Beware of emails asking for personal information even if they appear to be from a reputable source. Fraudsters will often send “phishing” emails to try to steal your personal information or to install malware.
  • Do not click on links if you do not know or trust the source.

Thieves and fraudsters are also present in stores. Some privacy tips for in-store shopping are:

  • Do not provide your personal information, such as name, address, telephone number, and postal code, when asked to do so by a retailer unless they can provide a reasonable purpose for the collection and use of the information and the length of time the information will be retained.
  • Keep your credit card receipts to check against your monthly credit card statement.
  • Shred sales receipts and other paper that displays your credit/debit card number or bank account numbers – thieves are known to sort through residential trash to find these items, which may be used to commit identity fraud.
  • Be cautious about clerks that double swipe your debit or credit card. Ask for cancelled sales receipts.
  • Do not give your debit or credit card PIN to anyone and do not write the number down (e.g. on your debit card).
  • Cover the PIN pad with your hand when entering your PIN into a point-of-sale terminal or ATM.
  • Keep an eye on your credit card when you give it to the store clerk or waiter – make sure it is not out of your sight.
  • If you see something suspicious relating to point-of-sale terminals or ATMs, report it to the store merchant.

Additional privacy tips:

  • Do not leave purses or wallets in your vehicle or unattended in a store.
  • Do not carry your Social Insurance Number (SIN) card or birth certificate in your wallet, in case of loss.

Tips for Merchants

Retailers are reminded that it is the law under the Personal Information Protection Act to protect customer and employee personal information.

  • Do not collect personal information if you do not need it.
  • Do not record driver’s licences or other forms of ID used to verify the identity of a credit card user unless this information is reasonably necessary.
  • Limit access to personal information to only those employees who need to see the information to do their jobs.
  • Make sure that credit card numbers are properly obscured or truncated by point-of-sale terminals.
  • Make sure point-of-sale terminals are visible to customers throughout the transaction – credit and debit cards should not disappear under the counter to be swiped.
  • Find out if your point-of-sale terminal collects and stores credit and debit card information. If so, make sure you protect the device against theft. Advise your staff to keep it stored when not in use and to not give it to any person except for the purposes of conducting a sale.
  • Protect the personal information on your premises – store paper records securely; ensure information on your computers is protected with adequate safeguards, including proper physical security such as locked doors and alarms, and technical security such as passwords; shred or otherwise securely dispose of all customer information once it is no longer needed.
  • Train and retrain staff about their obligation to protect privacy and provide your staff with the information they need to inform customers about your privacy policies and procedures, including why you collect customer personal information. For example, your staff should be able to explain to a customer why you collect personal information as part of processing a refund.