METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - If you've ever shopped online, your personal information may be at risk. In fact, in the last year alone, more than 40 million people have been victims of cyber crime.
Lakeside Mall in Metairie is already bustling with holiday shoppers.
Stephanie Hawkins' first stop is the ATM machine to pick up some cash. Hawkins explains, "I don't have to worry about, is my information actually getting lost or being used."
Hawkins primarily uses cash versus a credit card at the mall, after someone once stole her identity online. "We have to be very careful when we're online shopping, where we may think we have a secure network, we actually don't," Hawkins said.
"Especially during the holidays, people are more vulnerable," said Nam Nguyen, CEO of Crescent City CyberSecurity.
Nguyen says something he sees frequently, is hackers sending emails to people who've just made an online purchase. The email may claim to be from a shipping company, saying the item purchased is delayed and will often contain a link to be clicked on. Nguyen advises, don't ever click on the link. Instead, contact the company that you made the purchase from, directly, otherwise, your privacy may be compromised.
"They'll attack your system and get into your system and from there, they can either take over your system or sit back and watch everything else you're doing on your computer," Nguyen explained.
There are easy ways to keep your information safe. In fact, some shoppers at Lakeside Mall already know the drill.
Mary Schindler says, "I look for the s after the http, so that means it's the secure line."
Sarah Birnie adds, "I make sometimes different emails so that my name isn't in the email or stuff like that or I have different accounts so when I shop it doesn't trace back to my identity in some way."
Nguyen has another tip. Don't use a debit card online. "Debit cards are tied directly to your bank account and if something happens to that debit card, they can pull all the money out from your bank account," Nguyen said.
Credit card companies, on the other hand, can quickly stop an illegal purchase.
Nam Nguyen says as technology evolves, cyber hacking will only get worse, not better. But it shouldn't stop people from shopping.