Whether you are a consumer or a business, now is the time to review your ID-theft and cybersecurity risks because the criminals are gearing up to steal your information during the holidays. They can attack as you shop online, or in the flurry of transactions during Black Friday madness.

To help protect you and your business this holiday season, I have prepared my 2015 holiday checklist of tips to help reduce your risk of identity theft and fraud:

  1. Computer security software. Regularly update the security software ( anti-virus, firewall and anti-malware) on your computers.
  2. Contests. Be careful when entering contests to win cash, cars, and tickets, etc., as they can be a source of computer viruses. Remember also that every contest site will use your personal information for marketing purposes and likely sell your personal information to third-party marketers.
  3. E-mails and attachments. Do not open e-mails and attachments from individuals or organizations that you do not know and trust.
  4. Holiday packages. Be aware that thieves steal packages delivered to your doorstep. They follow UPS or FedEx trucks, wait for a delivery and then grab the package(s) before you can retrieve them.
  5. Online shopping. Do business with companies you know and trust. Use a credit card instead of a debit card or checking account, as your credit card is protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act. Also, look for icons such as a padlock or unbroken key at the top or bottom of your browser as a sign that encryption is used.
  6. Password management. Always create complex passwords using a combination of mixed-case words, numbers, punctuation, symbols and letters, with a minimum of 10 characters. Ideally, you should change your passwords every 90 days and at a minimum two times a year. Also, use a different password for sensitive accounts, such as your bank account, than what you use for your social media account(s).
  7. Personally identifiable information. Take extra care in protecting personal information such as your name, bank account, birth date, driver’s license, e-mail address, home address, passwords, phone number, photos and Social Security number.
  8. Phishing and vishing scams. Learn how to identify phishing scams by paying close attention to e-mails from financial institutions, the Internal Revenue Service and retail marketing organizations asking for personal information. No credible company or government agency will ask for your personal information via e-mail and/or phone calls.
  9. Privacy policies. Learn and understand the privacy policies of any application or social media site that you use. Use  discretion in downloading apps.
  10. Privacy settings. Learn, understand and use the privacy settings of the apps and social media sites that you use.
  11. Shredding. Purchase and use a shredder to shred your documents containing personal information.
  12. Social media. Review, update and confirm the personal and professional information that you have on any social network. Do not communicate to the world where you are and when, as criminals want to know when you are not home.
  13. Wireless Internet. Be careful of wireless Internet use, and make sure that the wireless network you are using is password- protected. Be aware that hackers can hack into wireless Internet networks and can view what you are viewing, such as bank account information.

Mark’s Most Important:  Protect you or your business by being prepared and vigilant as ID-theft criminals increase their attacks during the holidays.

Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., an ID theft-background screening company based in Phoenix. Contact him at markpribish@merchantsinfo.com.

This article was originally published on AZcentral.com and republished with the author’s permission.