Cyber criminals don’t take time off for the holidays. In fact, the increase of online shopping this time of year provides ample opportunity for them to strike swiftly, silently, and without warning. 2020 poses even more of a threat as the majority of consumers will conduct almost all of their holiday shopping virtually, providing all of the data needed to give these identity thieves the gift that keeps on giving – your personal information.
And while the threat of compromising your online security is apparent, it doesn’t have to be imminent. The more you know about how to protect sensitive information and the ways to limit the potential for identity theft, the better suited you’ll be to remain merry and bright through the holidays and beyond. The tips and tricks listed below will give you an effective means to thwart the Cyber-Grinch before he has a chance to steal your Christmas.
Do Your Due Diligence and Stay Informed of Common Seasonal Scams
In order to prevent a cyber threat, it’s important to understand the ways in which identity thieves may attempt to gain access to your personal information. Phony retail sites offering deals that seem too good to be true and any suspect emails filling up your inbox are simple but effective traps that cybercriminals use to lure shoppers into providing their data.
If the product or website you are looking into doesn’t have any customer reviews or a track record of sales, there is good chance that it is fraudulent. Always do your due diligence to ensure that a company is real and not a farce set up to take your information. Some scams are set up to look like an official offering from a major retailer when they are entirely bogus. Make sure you are on the legitimate site of the known retailer you are attempting to shop with or use any official shopping app the company may offer.
An unsolicited email from an unknown sender is another common seasonal scam and even if the message claims some sort of super deal, you’re better off leaving it unread. If you do open an email that seems like a scam, never click on any links or attachments. These are easy ways for criminals to sneak malware and spyware onto your computer or other device that can cause a breach of your cyber security now and down the road.
Protect Your Passwords and Keep Computers Clean
Basic online security measures dictate that you should always create a unique and complex password for any online accounts you might have. For any online shopping you might create this holiday season, this needs to be taken into account as well.
A stolen or compromised password gives thieves easy access to your personal information. It essentially leaves the virtual front door open for them when you’re not home. And even though this tip is straightforward and simple, the most common password used in 2020 is still 123456… A simple password is an invitation for cybercriminals to join the family for holiday dinner. If you have trouble remember or keeping track of complex passwords, use a password manager to help you out.
You also need to keep your computer and any other device you might use for shopping or any online purchase clean from any potential threats that may be hiding on your system. If you don’t have antimalware and antivirus protection software on your computer, you should take a break from reading this article and download some immediately. And if you do already have it, you should make sure it is fully updated and that you’ve performed a recent scan or your device before you make any online purchase. You may not think that your system is compromised, but malware can lurk in the shadows without your knowledge very easily. You should also make sure any shopping apps you are using are updated to their latest version for this reason as well.
Safeguard Your Wi-Fi Connection
It is always recommended to make your online purchases from a trusted wi-fi connection, preferably one that you have direct control over at home. Even at home, you will want to enable strong encryption on your network to prevent unwarranted access. This again involves using a strong password, but you should also change your SSID from the default and check to make sure that your wireless router has the latest software update.
You should always try to avoid making purchases from a public wi-fi connection. The person sitting next to you sipping on coffee may look unsuspecting, but it doesn’t take much for a cyberthief to intercept your data out of thin air when you are using a public connection without much security. If you do find yourself in need of using public wi-fi to shop online, consider using a VPN to add an extra layer of security and encryption.
Check Your Bank Accounts After a Purchase and Act Quickly If a Threat is Detected
Another suggested tip to get in the habit of after making a purchase any time of year is to keep an eye on all of your bank accounts. Make sure that all charges you see are expected and from the retailer or business you believe you have made the purchase from. Checking statements and accounts frequently is key here as things can quickly slip past the radar if you are making a lot of purchases.
If you do suspect any fraudulent activity or that your identity has been compromised, it’s very important for you to take quick action to begin the restoration process immediately. The longer a breach in your online security goes unnoticed, the more opportunity cybercriminals have to take advantage of your personal information and use it to their benefit. It’s also a good idea make all attempts to limit yourself as a target of identity theft. There are high-quality services out there that can help you with this process and are well worth exploring.
Taking a few simple steps to safeguard your personal information is critical when shopping online and can help limit the unfortunate event of your identity being compromised. No one wants cybercriminals to ruin their holiday season and the tips above can add a solid line of defense to help prevent this from happening.
LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.
*Extended families – primary individual, their spouse/partner, both sets of parents (including those that have been deceased for up to a year), and all children under the age of 25