11/22/2013 04:16 pm ET Updated Feb 13, 2014

Protect Your Online Identity This Holiday Season

Online presence and shopping are increasingly popular. And as if we needed more reason to shop online, there's a day set aside for online deals: Cyber Monday. This holiday season, Internet users and shoppers need to be aware of identity thieves.

It seems as though everyone has a smartphone, tablet, or other Wi-Fi enabled device and we quickly provide websites with our personal info. The more devices we use to share personal information, the higher the risk will be of getting scammed this season. Be smarter than the scammer.

Holiday retail sales are projected to generate up to $602 billion and online sales are increasing by 15 percent. With this surge in spending online, identity thieves are likely to be patrolling and attacking tablets, smartphones, and credit and debit cards.

There are several ways that ID thieves can scam you. A few of include:
  • Gift card scam -- scammers set up bogus websites to sell gift cards; to be safe, buy gift cards from official retailers or in stores
  • Free public Wi-Fi scam -- don't give personal info to a hotel, restaurant, or airport public Wi-Fi system; legitimate sites don't ask for details, they just ask for usage policy acceptance
  • Fake shipping email notification -- beware of shipping notifications; check email addresses to determine legitimacy and check to see if the emails are well written, containing no spelling errors; most legitimate shipping companies don't reach out via email for additional info
  • Hot holiday giveaway scam -- occurs when a popular gift such as an iPad is given away by email or on web sites, including Facebook; avoid bogus contests by checking with retailers and don't give personal data to unknown websites
Visit this McAfee site for safety tips and to view a list of 12 Scams for Christmas.

Here are a few Do's and Don'ts

  • Only purchase from websites where you initiate contact; it is more suspicious if you have received information without asking for it.
  • If purchasing online, go directly to the store's website to make the purchase.
  • Use a credit card to make your online purchases; if something goes wrong or if your information is stolen, you will be protected by the Federal Fair Credit Billing Act.
  • Research the credibility of the website from which you are purchasing.
  • Create new passwords when shopping at a new website.
  • Check the website security. If your web browser displays an "https" before the website name, it's a general indication the website is secure.
  • Don't respond directly to email advertisements or fill out requested information within an email.
  • If you are traveling: don't download software to use free Wi-Fi at a hotel, airport, or restaurant.

Protect your identity this season and take precautions.

Parents should talk with kids about the dangers of identity theft. Even better is to monitor your child's online activity closely. If that seems to be a daunting task, get software tools that help you monitor keystrokes typed (keystroke logger), to filter Internet browsing (Internet content filter), or to monitor social network interactions (Facebook monitor) without taking an inordinate amount of time out of your busy schedule.

Note: This article and the opinions expressed here are from Russ Warner, Internet safety expert and CEO of ContentWatch, makers of parental control software Net Nanny.

Follow Russ Warner on Google+.