It’s that time of year again, holiday shopping has begun! Everyone is looking for those unique gifts, hot toys, and cool electronics. After the chaos of Black Friday comes both Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. While it’s clear that businesses are after your dollars during the holidays, you should be aware that cybercriminals are on the lookout, too.
When it comes to holiday shopping, you need to be careful to not fall prey to these criminals. Here are some tips to follow for your holiday shopping:
Online Shopping Tips
- Do Not Use Public Wi-Fi For Any Shopping Activity: Public Wi-Fi networks can be very dangerous, especially during the holiday season. Public Wi-Fi can potentially grant hackers access to your usernames, passwords, texts, and emails. For instance, before you join a public Wi-Fi titled “Apple__Store,” make sure there’s actually an Apple Store in your vicinity and confirm that it is a legitimate network. To help stay secure, you should always be on the lookout for the lock symbol on your webpage.
- Look For The Lock Symbol On Websites: When visiting a website look for the “lock” symbol before entering any personal and/or credit card information. The lock may appear in the URL bar, or elsewhere in your browser. Additionally, check that the URL for the website has “https” in the beginning. These both indicate that the site uses encryption to protect your data.
- Know What The Product Should Cost: If the deal is too good to be true, then it may be a scam. Check out the company on ResellerRatings.com. This site allows users to review online companies to share their experiences purchasing from those companies. This will give you an indication of what to expect when purchasing from them.
- Keep Your Computer Secure: When using your computer to do your holiday shopping, remember to keep your anti-virus software up to date and apply all software patches.
- Outsmart the scammers. During the holiday season, we often see an influx of emails with discounts. While many of these discounts and special offers are legitimate, email scammers take advantage of this surge to send out their own viruses and malware, hoping it might get lost in the mix. These scams have evolved to the point that they are depicted as a legitimate discount or special offer. Be wary when opening an email from someone you don’t know or a site you have not visited.
- Make sure your passwords are complex. Updating and creating unique passwords is a cybersecurity best practice when it comes to protecting your personal and financial information. If you utilize the same password for multiple sites, you are setting yourself up for disaster. If you have difficulty creating a large number of unique passwords for all of your information, utilize password generators and managers to develop more complex passwords and store them securely.
- Never save your information. Never save usernames, passwords, or credit card information in your browser. Periodically clear your offline content, cookies, and history. Always utilize strong passwords and consider setting up Multi-factor Authentication (MFA). This is as simple as receiving a text or code that you need to type in while signing on to a system. Oftentimes within the account preferences of your device, you can set up an Authentication Application. Additionally, when online shopping, consider checking out as a guest user rather than creating an account, as well as utilizing your private browsing feature. For instance, Google Chrome’s Incognito Mode won’t save any of your browsing history, cookies, site data, or information you enter on forms. While the convenience of online shopping is unparalleled, never let this convenience override your security best practices.
- Understand your shopping applications. Apps have a way of making everything more convenient for your shopping experience, but certain apps could also make it convenient for criminals to take your information. Make sure you are only installing and utilizing trusted applications from reliable cyber markets, such as the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. If you find yourself questioning certain applications, be sure to check out the reviews by legitimate user accounts, as this can help you identify if there is anything suspicious surrounding them.
- Keep an eye on your credit. As cyber-safe and secure as you think you might be, we all make mistakes. During this time, pay close attention to your credit report to ensure that nothing out of the ordinary is taking place.
In-Store Shopping Tips
- Always Use Credit Cards For Purchases: Avoid using your ATM or debit card while shopping. In the event that your debit card is compromised, criminals can have direct access to the funds from your bank account. This could cause you to miss bill payments and overdraw your account. When using a credit card, you are not using funds associated with your bank account. This means you are better protected by your credit card company’s fraud protection program. If you pay off the credit card balance each month, you won’t pay interest and your banking information will be protected.
- Don’t Leave Purchases In The Car Unattended: Criminals can be watching and will consider breaking into your car to get the merchandise you just purchased. If you must leave some items in your car, consider leaving them in the trunk or glove compartment rather than in a visible location.
- Beware of “Porch Pirates”: When shopping online and receiving purchases by mail, make sure you are always tracking your packages. The US Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS all have systems to track your packages, and all three utilize tracking numbers that can be used to figure out where your item is and when it should be delivered to your home. However, the only surefire way to thwart porch pirates is to not have packages delivered to your home at all. Consider having your holiday packages delivered to a family member, your workplace, or a trusted neighbor!
Remember, always trust your instincts. If an email or an attachment seems suspicious, don’t let your curiosity put your computer at risk!
Happy Holidays and Safe Shopping!