Tips to Help Keep Cybercriminals at Bay This Holiday

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We love online shopping. Cybercriminals do, too.

The uptick in online shopping during the holidays means more chances for cybercriminals to steal your data. This can happen in any number of ways – visiting compromised websites, clicking on phishing emails or fake social media posts, falling for holiday charity scams and even buying from fraudulent shopping sites. The methods vary and cybercriminals get more innovative each year, but their goal remains the same: steal your personal and financial information.

Here are a few precautions you can take to help protect your information while shopping online:

  • “S” stands for secure: Make sure the website you’re using is secure by looking at the URL. If it begins with https:// (there must be an “s” after http), then the website is secure and will encrypt your information. Also, strive to use sites with reputable brands you know and trust.
  • Just say “no” to public computers for online shopping: Public computers (like those in libraries, hotel business centers, etc.) may contain malicious software that could steal your personal information.
  • Be wary of public Wi-Fi:Public Wi-Fi may not be secure and could provide easy access for criminals to intercept your personal data.
  • Strong passwords are a must: Strong passwords are one of the easiest and most important ways to secure your devices. Use a combination of numbers, letters and symbols to make your password complex and difficult to guess, and don’t use names of family members, pets or birthdays. And never use the same password across multiple sites (you may wish to try password manager software to make it easy to never repeat the same password).
  • Resist the click: Bogus links and attachments in emails, tweets, social media posts and online advertising are ways cybercriminals can compromise your device. If it looks suspicious, delete it. Also, always hover over a link with your mouse and review the destination address carefully before you click.
  • Stay in the know with account alerts: Activate fraud alerts with your bank, credit cards, and credit bureaus to help detect suspicious activities like new payee, money withdrawal, high-value credit card transaction, activity in unusual locations, etc.
  • Ship securely: Be sure to ship your new purchases to a secure location. If you know you won’t be home, ship to your office or to a neighbor to help prevent package theft. Also, packages left on a porch or otherwise in site of the public could be an indicator you may be away from home and invite criminal activity.

Staying safe online will continue to require vigilance, and the convenience of online shopping will continue to come with risks. But by being diligent when shopping online, you can help combat cybercriminal activity during the holidays and year-round.

Wishing you a happy, and safe, holiday shopping season!

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