Cybersecurity Phishing

How to stay safe online this holiday season

Thanksgiving is not just a time to celebrate with family and friends as Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping has become highly anticipated shopping days following the holiday. Last year, online shoppers spent a record $7.9 billion on Cyber Monday with over 50% of that coming from mobile phones and overall there was nearly a 20% increase in online shopping on Cyber Monday from 2017. As the number of people shopping online grows, there comes an increase of cybersecurity risks as well from phishing email scams and data breachs.

Here are some tips to help you stay safe online, not just during the holiday shopping season but all year long. The holiday season may be hectic at times, but it is meant to be a time of happiness; avoiding online scams will help to keep your season full of cheer. Take these precautions to stay safe and if you feel unsure about a website or an email, trust your gut and stay safe.

  1. Don’t click on links in emails

Now is the time of year that there is an increase in fake emails from FedEx, UPS, USPS about redirect shipments, notifications from your bank about verifying purchases, gift cards offers, and a wild variety of other fanciful clickbait of great deals. Clicking on the link in an email instead of going directly to retailer, bank, or shipping company’s website can redirect you to a fake look-a-like website and scammers are very good at copying websites to trick users. Other phishing emails are designed to look like the real company, often copying domains with just a slight typo in the address (two v’s instead of a w, an L instead of a capital i, etc) in hopes you will give up your personal information.

  • ‘Too good to be true’ deals usually are

A common tactic used by cyber-criminals is to lure you to their websites with deals that appear to be too good to be true where they either sell you something they don’t really have in stock or collect your private information. It is important to keep this in mind when searching for that special gift your loved one just can’t live without, if a deal seems too good to be true, it is likely a scam and buyer beware.

  • Shop at retailers you know and trust

By sticking with retailers whose brands you recognize and trust, such as Amazon, Walmart, Target or Best Buy, you can lessen the chance of your data being stolen, your payment card information compromised, or buying an item that doesn’t truly exist as these companies invest heavily in cybersecurity defense.

No matter which site you use, look for ‘https’ and a lock symbol next to the link in your web browser, as these indicate that sending your information to the website is secure.

  • Give only the information needed

When signing up for a rewards for extra savings, never give out more information than is necessary. No company needs your social security number to make a purchase, so if they request it, do not provide it. However, if you are applying for credit, you will need to provide the information so sometimes you will need to provide it online, but as always, makes sure you see the “https” and lock symbol before providing this information! If you get asked for this information on a big-brand website while making a purchase, you are most likely on a spoofed website, a website that looks like the real site but is really a fake, and you should exit the website immediately.

As a rule of thumb, if the information is optional, don’t provide it. Only give the information that is required to make the purchase or sign up for an account.

  • Use credit cards instead of debit cards

One recommendation that can help against significant financial distress if your information were to be compromised is to use your credit card instead of a debit card linked directly to your bank account. Often if  your credit card is used for fraudulent purchases, you can notify the issuer of the unauthorized use and continue on with your day without too much worry. But when a fraudster drains your bank account with fake purchases and suddenly you are left without money to pay for groceries, rent, or take care of other bills, the impact is very real and stressful as you deal with the bank to recover the stolen funds and sometimes those funds will not immediately be made available as the bank goes its fraud investigation process..

Regardless of what kind of card you decided to use for shopping, online or in stores, make sure that you take advantage of any fraud detection services your financial institutions offer and check your account for activity.

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