Tis the season! The Holidays are upon us, now more than ever many of us have opted for online shopping instead of standing in line for that Wi-Fi connected slow cooker that you just can’t live without. Even though this holiday season is much different than any prior to it, there is one constant that we all need to keep in mind and be cognizant of; and that is the personal security for ourselves while shopping online. Even though a large majority of us have had to adjust or cancel our traditional holiday activities amid the pandemic, online scammers, identity thieves, and hackers have not, and are at the ready to take full advantage of the huge boom in e-commerce activity as people are trying to get their last minute shopping done.
Fortunately, here at SME our motto is to Simply Make IT Easier! So with that, we’re going to provide some helpful tips on how to keep yourself safe online during the holiday season.
Examine Your Email and Text Messages Carefully
Review all emails and SMS messages closely, especially those that are coming from name brand retailers offering hard to beat deals or promotional offers.
- Never open an attachment or link in the email or text message. Instead go to the company’s website and look for the promotion there. If the sale is as good as the email says, it will be posted on their website.
- Check the email or SMS for spelling/grammatical errors.
Check Out The Link!
To further reiterate on this tip, hover over the link in the email but do not click it, if the URL for the link looks phishy, then it probably is!
Only Shop On Sites You Know
Not all of the online retailers we come across on the web are trustworthy. This is why it is extremely important that you only shop at sites that you know, such as the official stores for brick & mortar retailers like Target or Walmart.
Hackers are known to send out fake holiday e-gift cards with malicious links to steal personal information, or they will post fake promotions for items at a significantly lower price. Always be sure to research to make sure it is a safe site before purchasing anything.
Only purchase from online stores that are secure. Be sure to check and make sure that the website you’re wanting to shop on uses HTTPS/SSL encryption. To do this, look in the browsers address bar, two ways to identify a secure connection is if the URL says https:// , or if there is a lock/shield icon in the left or right of the address bar.
Do Not Use a Debit Card for Purchases
When it comes to practicing your own DIY cybersecurity, opt for using a form of payment other than your bank linked debit card. If a hacker is able to steal your debit card information, they can wipe out any account that may be linked to that card. Instead choose a payment method like a credit card, or a 3rd-party payment system like PayPal, Venmo, or CashApp. Most major credit card companies offer zero-liability protection to customers, and using payment systems like PayPal, or Venmo are also more suitable than using a debit card as the online store never actually receives your card information.
Lockdown Your Logins & Diversify Passwords
You’re probably tired of hearing this, but you should be creating and using long and unique passwords/passphrases as well as using some form of multi-factor authentication to further secure your online accounts. Many online stores/apps offer the ability to integrate directly into the bio-metric authentication methods (facial recognition, fingerprint scanning) via our mobile devices, and some opt for a one-time pass code that is sent directly to your mobile device. This provides one extra step of security that will aid in preventing your account from being compromised.
Monitor Online Accounts & Statements
Another easy and often overlooked way of keeping yourself secure, not only during the holiday season but any time of the year; keep tabs on your banking and credit card statements. Check your online financial accounts, or any paper statements you may receive in the mail for any discrepancies, if you notice that purchases have been made but you didn’t make them, contact your credit card or the 3rd-party payment system you used immediately.
You can also take advantage of text and email based alerts that many banks, credit card companies, and 3rd-party payment systems offer.
Always Be Skeptical, and Avoid Phishy Behavior
Use common sense when shopping online! As you’re probably tired of hearing, if the deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is! If you think an email looks a little phishy, then it is most likely a scam.
Unfortunately enough, charity donation scams are also a serious issue during the holidays. Online criminals know that many people regard the holidays as a time of giving and wanting to spread joy to others, and will attempt to take advantage of this generosity by making fake charity donation requests.
SME is here to help increase security posture and get rid of those sleepless nights, for any IT/security related questions, please give us a call at 703-378-4110 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a Safe Holiday and a Happy New Year!