As cybercriminals begin to take advantage of the holiday season, it’s important to take extra precautions to avoid having your money, credit card information, social security number, or identity stolen. E-commerce thieves, at this time of year especially, will try to create holiday-related websites, scams, and other phishing e-mails that can trick even the most alert consumers. The following tips can help:
Don’t let your generosity leave you vulnerable to criminals. Many cybercriminals want to take advantage of your generosity by sending e-mails that appear to be from legitimate charitable organizations. Do not click on links in any such email—instead, go directly to the website of charities that you know and trust to make a legitimate online donation.
Make sure things are really signed, sealed, and delivered. During the holidays, cybercriminals often send fake email invoices and delivery notifications appearing to be from Federal Express, UPS, or the U.S. Customs Service. These e-mails may ask for credit card details or require users to open an online invoice or customs form to receive a package. Such actions can result in stolen information and/or malware being installed on your computer. It is best to check with the specific delivery service directly before answering these emails.
Stop before you shop. It’s important to think about where you are doing your holiday shopping—even if it’s online. You may be used to shopping on your tablet or phone, but if you’re doing so on an unsecured Wi-Fi network or an open hotspot, a hacker can easily steal your personal information…so wait until you get home to shop online.
Be merry and wary when doing festive online searches. It’s sad but true. During the holidays, hackers often create fraudulent holiday-related websites based on popular searches for holiday ringtones or wallpaper, Christmas carol lyrics, or festive screensavers. Downloading such files may infect your computer with spyware, adware, or other malware, so be careful in your quest for holiday fun online.
While it pays to be vigilant about protecting your personal and financial information all year round, it’s especially important to do so during the holidays when criminals are counting on us to be hurried, distracted, and more active online. Use the tips above to help prevent being the victim of an unexpected holiday cybercrime.