The holiday season offers shoppers some of the best online deals of the year and as consumers we spend more time shopping online. However, increased shopping comes with potential, increased risk to your online safety. In addition to a rise in online shopping during December, there is also an increased risk of falling victim to an online scam or cyber criminals.
Here are 10 tips from the Ongoing Operations cyber security office to keep in mind this holiday season.
- Never click on links in emails. If you want to shop at a site, enter that site address in your browser. There are thousands of fake sites that look almost identical to the real thing. Don't fall for evil-twin shopping sites.
- Don't open attachments with special offers. It's a classic scam. The offer should be in the email and you should be able to see it right away.
- Watch for malicious ads and popups. Do not click on ads that sound too good to be true, and ignore popups that might propose the "best deal ever".
- Beware of e-skimmers. This is a new one. Do you know that bad guys sometimes skim your credit card at gas stations or ATMs? Well, there is a new flavor of that, the shopping website you order from might be infected with a "e-skimmer" and they steal your card data when you check out. You can prevent that by using PayPal or Amazon.
- Use a credit card to buy stuff online if possible. NEVER use a debit card to make online purchases but use that debit card to take out cash only.
- Do not shop over a public Wi-Fi. You simply do not know if it's secure and who is listening. Only shop using a secure, trusted network. If you have no other way to shop, use a VPN which encrypts your traffic.
- Be very careful when you see a free offer during the holidays. There is an explosion of all kinds of survey fraud and gift card scams.
- Do not re-use any of your passwords. Instead, use a password manager to create hard-to-break passwords. Re-using any password is literally an invitation to get hacked.
- Keep a close eye on your credit card and bank accounts. During this season, unexpected and strange charges might appear which could very well be the first sign your card or even your whole identity has been stolen. If you think you might have been scammed, stay calm and call your credit card company, nix that card and get a new one.
- Be especially suspicious of gift card scams. They can be a perfect holiday gift, but gift card scams are skyrocketing. Only buy gift cards from trusted sources.
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