Thieves are busy this season, so here are some tips to help protect you.
Never Click on Suspicious Links
The major buying season is an excellent opportunity for scammers to exploit victims, and one successful method is by sending malware disguised as holiday email. Many people don’t realize that their social media is viewable to the public, which includes names of family and friends. Scammers may use that information to send false emails to victims who believe that the message is from a loved one. A simple click on the attachment installs malware.
Because scammers are very successful at disguising email the best rule is to never click on the link to any incoming email that you were not expecting—even if it seems to be from a loved one. If you do receive any type of holiday email that asks you to click on a link, contact that person and ask if he or she sent it to you. While it may seem rude, it may protect you from having to deal with an infected computer.
Always Use Secure Websites
Websites use what is known as a Uniform Resource Locator, or URL, that users enter to display a web page. For example, the URL for Texas Lifestyle Magazine is https://www.texaslifestylemag.com. The ‘s’ at the end of https stands for “security,” which means that all financial transactions at a given website are secure. Consumers interested in making online purchases should look for https in advance. This feature does not mean that the retailer is reliable or trustworthy; it only means that all financial transactions at the site will be secure. Consumers should either make purchases at websites that they have used before or research a specific retailer in advance.
Electronic gadgets are certainly favored purchases this Christmas. The problem is that some manufacturers have failed to implement proper security in their products, which leave them susceptible to being compromised. One example is that criminals were able to easily access baby monitors that use WiFi. Instruction manuals for many products are available online so consumers interested in purchasing electronic product should first review the requirements. Would you be comfortable if someone compromised that gadget? Are you required to sign up for an account to use it? If you’re required to sign up for an account for a product and return it later, your account will likely not be deleted.
General Online Recommendations
- Keep records of all online purchases and print copies of all receipts.
- Be careful what information you provide online. Some online retailers ask questions that aren’t needed for the purchase. Cancel the purchase if you’re uncomfortable with a retailer asking very personal questions.
- Many online retailers will try to get you to create an account or sign up for a newsletter during a purchase. Keep a keen eye out for options on the retailer’s web site (that will likely be checked), asking if you would like to enroll.
- Consider creating an email account specifically for online purchases. That way, you will have the option of deleting it later without affecting your normal email.
If you prefer shopping at traditional malls or stores here are some recommendations.
- Avoid joining public WiFi. It offers no protection and some businesses track the communication that passes through their service. If you don’t need it, don’t connect.
- If possible, use credit cards instead of debit cards for purchases because credit cards offer better protection.
- Leave your ATM card at home when going shopping, if possible. If your ATM card is ever stolen, contact the bank immediately and change your PIN.
- Never store any sensitive information (such as Social Security numbers) on your mobile phone in case it’s stolen. If your phone is stolen, report the theft to your service provider as early as possible.
- If you disabled your phone’s PIN, consider enabling it, at least during the holiday. Be careful when entering your phone’s PIN in a crowded location because it’s easy for others to observe what you entered, making your phone a tempting target.
Wishing you a safe and secure holiday season!
Larry Moore is a twenty-year security veteran currently serving as the president of the Austin chapter of the Information Systems and Security Association (ISSA), a nonprofit organization that promotes cyber security.