The secret to safe online shopping is in your password

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7's Michael Finney has been introducing you to a great many identity theft victims, like San Jose resident Tawnya Coogan, who found she had been caught up in a scam when she checked her EDD account.

She told Finney, "It said, 'Action needed on your unemployment insurance claim.'"

She hadn't made a claim.

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Tanesha Kelly, in San Ramon, actually watched identity thieves drain her EDD account.

"The first text message came in, and it was 'Your balance is like $50,'" she told me. "'Then five minutes later it came in and 'Your balance is now $30.'"

However, you don't have to be tangled up with EDD to be victimized. All you have to do is shop online. The FBI is tracking an increasing online criminal presence.

Sanjay Virmani works out of the San Francisco FBI office. He saw it happening back when the pandemic lockdown began.

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"They know people are online more now, looking for shopping," he tells me. "So they're looking to assert themselves, to find those vulnerabilities, commit fraud and make a profit."

So, can you protect yourself? Yes, if you do this one thing: Don't reuse passwords.

"I know it is so easy and tempting to reuse them," says Bankrate.com's Ted Rossman.

"The problem is if we get another hack like we've seen at Target, or Home Depot, or Marriott or places like that, you may not care that much about your login info for any of those sites, but if that is the same one you are using for your bank account, let's say, then that becomes a bigger problem."

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Ted Rossman has a lot of good advice.

If you are an overachiever, you could also:
- Use a password manager
- Check your credit report frequently
- Freeze your credit report
- Read your financial statements

"Almost all of us are taking some risks with our data," Ted says. "I say this not to scare people, but just to emphasize that we can be doing better, and specifically, if you do the big stuff well it covers up much of the smaller missteps."

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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