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Holiday Shopping: Cybersecurity to Financial Gifts for Kids

The holiday shopping season have arrived, the smell of eggnog and people trampling other humans for discounted prices is in the air. In today's post we cover two important topics; the first is cybersecurity and while you think "password1234!" is secure, we wanted to send you a few refreshers before you type your credit card information in to questionable online shopping sites. We follow it up with some good financial gifts for kids because little Susie has enough Frozen dolls and little Johnny doesn't need to spend any more time on Xbox. 

Part 1: 7 Essential Cybersecurity Tips for Online Shoppers

According to a recent survey, almost a third of all consumers in the U.S. were victims of a hacked online account in 2017. Currently, online crimes including server breaches are the single largest criminal threat facing small businesses. This means that protecting yourself when you shop online is something you need to take seriously. These seven tips can help you safeguard your information when you buy from an online retailer.

1. A Good, Secure Password

Your password is the first line of defense; make it a strong one. Avoid simple, easy to figure out passwords like 'Pass1234.' If your computer supports the ability to generate random passwords, choose that option, but if it doesn't then create a password which does not contain full words, names, dates, phone numbers or addresses. Instead, try using partial words and symbols to replace letters such as '!' for an 'i,' '$' for an 's,' and '@' for an 'a.' Don't forget to change your passwords on a regular basis and avoid keeping a list of your passwords on your computer. 

2. Protect Your Password 

Always use a different password for each site or service you use. This is to prevent hackers from gaining access to all of your other accounts if one is compromised. Avoid giving out your password to other people, even friends and family. If the person's computer is hacked, you may wind up becoming an additional victim.

3. Invest in Quality Cybersecurity Software 

Everyone should purchase and install a cybersecurity software, which can help identify and prevent viruses from downloading to your computer system. While there are many free cybersecurity programs available, these programs do not always provide the latest updates. There are many low-cost cybersecurity options you can choose from, and their small upfront cost is definitely worth it to safeguard your personal information. 

Pro Tip: Did you know that if you are a Comcast subscriber, they offer Norton Security Online for free? Check it out here

4. Never Click on Links

Yes, you know by now that you should avoid clicking on any links you receive in an email or chat, but are you? Spoofed messages, making links appear to be from a trusted source when they aren't, and redirecting links to a different website have been fooling people for years. Instead of clicking, always type the URL directly in the address bar. Resist the urge of clicking on a pop-up and no matter how great an offer may seem. 

5. Don't Put Yourself at Risk 

The internet is immense, and you can get yourself in a lot of trouble if you insist on visiting the sketchy areas online. Certain types of sites which contain adult entertainment, some discussion forums, file-sharing, and streaming services tend to result in an increased likelihood of downloading a virus to your computer. But it is important to remember that even if you avoid the fringes of the internet, you are still in danger. 

6. Don't Use Debit Cards Online

Once you make a purchase with a debit card, the money is immediately deducted from your bank account. If a cyber criminal gains access to your debit card information, the criminal can quickly drain your bank account. While you may get your money back in the end, you will not have access to your funds until your bank resolves the issue. Instead, use a credit card and let your credit card company worry about it. 

7. Check Your Credit Score for Changes 

Set aside a day each month to check your credit scores online. Many people make it a habit to check their scores on the same day that they pay their bills. There are several sites which offer free credit scores, and many banks offer the service to their customers. Consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service for extra protection. 

Cybercrime is scary, but it is part of modern-day life. Taking precautions like those above can help you lower your chances of becoming another victim.

Part 2: 5 Clever Financial Gift Ideas for Kids

One of the most crucial responsibilities parents have raising their children is to educate them in such a way that they are ready to handle the complexities of adult life. While teachers address the usual academic subjects like reading, mathematics, and writing in the classroom, learning about economics and personal finances are left out of the majority of public school curricula. That means the responsibility falls upon parents to expose their kids to these essential lessons. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help kids learn more about finances that don't have to wind up costing you a lot of money. These five unique gift ideas will give your children a substantial advantage when it comes to financial security and money management skills in the future. 

Financial Gift Ideas Kids and Their Parents Will Love

A prepaid debit card. Today's kids are more independent than ever before. Give a child the power and responsibility to make his or her own financial choices and mistakes with a prepaid debit card. There are plenty of prepaid debit cards available, but try to find one geared specifically to kids. Many of these cards have added features which allow parents to view a child's purchases, block purchases at certain stores, and recharge the card when it is getting low. 

Gold. Do you want to give a child a present which will not only bring a sparkle to their eyes but will also appreciated in the future? Then it is difficult to go wrong with giving the gift of gold. You can choose to give gold in a variety of forms from coins to gold bars. You can usually find a large variety of gold coins with impressions to match someone's interests. Some givers may even consider gifting gold in the form of jewelry. Whichever form the gold takes, it is essential to explain to a younger child that it is valuable and they should treasure it. Parents may want to hang on to it for their kids until they feel the child is responsible enough.

Purchase shares of stock in a favorite company. Introduce the stock market to a child by giving them real shares in the company which produces his or her favorite product. Not only will the child start their portfolio at a young age, but it is the perfect opportunity to sit down to have a meaningful discussion about how the market works and why investing is an integral part of financial planning. For adults who don't want to spend much money on stocks or who want an older child to gain real experience when it comes to buying and selling shares, there are several kid-friendly stock market simulators available online.

Contribute to the kid's college fund. While giving money to help pay for college may not be flashy like gold or even as cool as a stock certificate, it can help them in the future. Family, friends, and relatives can make contributions to the child's 529 College Savings Plan (Preferred gift from Santa and all grandparents in the Chubb household!).

Books about money. While monetary gifts may increase the size of a kid's bank account immediately, providing solid financial education is worth much more in the long run. It is never too early to start helping a child to explore topics relating to money. There's a wide range of books which can help kids learn not only about the value of money but how to grow and protect what they earn. Choose a light-hearted picture book or an easy-to-read introduction about money for the elementary school crowd. For kids in middle school and above consider books on investing. 

Amazon Search: "Money Books for Kids."

Whichever gift you give, make sure that it makes financial sense for you, too! Be the cool Parents, not the broke Parents.  

Happy Holidays! 

Written by Chad Chubb, CFP®

Disclosures: Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security or precious metals.