Cyber Monday is upon us and that means that millions of consumers are getting ready to shop for online deals. This also means that scammers are hard at work finding new methods to scam you out of your money. In honor of Cyber Monday we are recommending 10 things you can do to stay safe this holiday season.
A suspicious email
Emails are being sent out on a regular basis during the holiday season to remind consumers that their favorite brand or products are on sale. If you see a deal that is too good to be true, then check exactly who the email is from. Often, scammers can trick you into thinking an email is legitimate. They will say and do anything to convince you to click on links that you wouldn’t normally dream of clicking on. If the deal looks suspicious always check out the email address of the sender before clicking!
Regular Maintenance Checks for Malware
We highly recommend that you step up computer maintenance checks during the holiday. Scan your computers for malicious software/code embedded into your computer. If you don’t have an antivirus program installed, we recommend that the most basic computer user turns on firewalls and even anti-virus programs. Malware basically cuts holes into your computer system and allows access to your computer for hackers to climb into and find personal information.
Passwords, passwords, passwords
We know it is difficult to remember long complicated passwords. However, if you include letters, numbers and symbols, you are less likely to be hacked as they are much harder to crack. It is also critical that you don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. Once a hacker knows one password, it virtually guarantees that they become unstoppable in infiltrating your life and personal business. So, we recommend that you take the time to come up with a variety of passwords.
Only connect to legitimate Wi-Fi networks
One of the tricks employed by cybercriminals is to set up fake internet services that look legitimate that you can connect to. While connecting to their services for internet, they are basically connected into your computer and watching everything you do on your computer. They are stealing passwords, credit card information and other personal information that can really create a lot of havoc in your life.
Make sure it’s the real site
Oftentimes hackers and scammers create fake sites that look like real sites. Before entering any personal information, take the time to scan the URL of websites to make sure that you are where you are supposed to be. We never, ever recommend clicking on a link within an email. That is just too dangerous, and you can quickly be redirected to scam websites. Always go directly to the browser and type in the website you want to go to for special deals.
Only shop from secure sites
Google has made it industry wide that sites must be encrypted with SSL security. That means that when you are online and you come across a site that does not have the green padlock icon, your information could possibly be in danger. An SSL encrypted website means that any sensitive information passed from you to the owner of the website is encrypted. This can be anything from simple contact forms to credit card transactions.
Look for third-party seals of approval
We always recommend that you look for some type of badge or trusted seal on a website. They usually indicate that a website owner has taken a few extra steps, confirming with a third party that they are legit. Some sites use trusted badges from their hosting provider. Other’s use trusted third party badges such as those from the BBB or Verisign. Most place these at the footer of their website.
Beware of deals that are too good to be true
This can be tricky, especially for those looking for their Black Friday deals. Most of those deals ARE too good to be true. However, when chasing the deal, there are a few precautions you can take. If you stick to legitimate known retailers, you will have a better chance of staying safe. If you do find a retailer with a good deal, but you are not familiar with them, take a little time to do some extra research online. It is surprising how quickly you can gather just a little bit of information with a couple minutes of research.
Create an email account for “junk”
We typically recommend that users own at least two email accounts. One is legitimate and used by family and friends. Keep that separate from an email account where you make online purchases. You can have all retailers send their “specials”, newsletters, coupons etc. to your junk email and keep your personal information and correspondences safe.
Use a credit card
We know it is second nature for you to simply use a debit card to make purchases online. However, if you use credit cards instead of debit cards, you are offered much more protection. You can dispute fake charges. Many credit card companies are on the look out for fraudulent charges. Many criminals can quickly drain your bank account before you know the money is gone. However, a credit card is an extra layer of protection to keep your checking and savings accounts safe.
While we don’t want to put a damper on your holiday shopping we do recommend that you take a few extra steps to protect yourself this holiday season.