Top 5 Security Tips for the Holidays

Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner with all the holiday shopping. But buyer beware, holiday scammers are also gearing up for the season. Here are some tips to help keep your money and your information safe during the holidays.

Don’t reuse the same passwords

Reusing the same passwords makes it significantly easier for cybercriminals to hack into your accounts. According to a 2017 Consumer Mobile Security App Use study by Keeper Security, respondents ages 18-30 stated they reuse passwords 87% of the time.  Respondents age 31+ said they reuse passwords 81% of the time. These numbers are staggering considering all the advice on the internet to never reuse the same username and password. Instead, consider using a password keeper. 

Some common mistakes to avoid when creating passwords are:

  • Using personal information such as a pet’s name or anniversary
  • Using your user ID as your password
  • Using simple number sequences, such as 12345
  • Recycling your password and using it for multiple websites
  • Not changing your passwords frequently
  • Sharing passwords

Where possible use multi-factor authentication to add an extra layer of protection to your accounts.      

Use your credit card instead of a debit card

You want to always use a credit card instead of a debit card when shopping online because credit cards offer fraud protection. Additionally, it’s better to have your credit card compromised rather than your checking account emptied. Credit card companies will fight for you if you become a victim of fraud.  If your debit card becomes compromised, then you will have to fight to get your money back.  Whether you use cash or credit card is up to you, but both limit criminals’ access to your bank account.  Plus if you use cash, you are limited in your spending which means you will stay in budget.  

Never use public Wi-Fi to make purchases

It might be convenient to use public Wi-Fi to shop online, but beware that using public Wi-Fi leaves you open to attacks. Public Wi-Fi networks are a hot target for hackers. Instead of using public Wi-Fi, use a secured Wi-Fi hotspot, a wired connection or a VPN. According to the National Cyber security Alliance, “a VPN is a service that encrypts all of a device’s internet traffic and routes it through an intermediary server in a location of the users choosing…Anyone who happens to intercept internet traffic between the smartphone or laptop and the VPN server won’t be able to decipher its contents, including Wi-Fi hackers.” You can also use your home Wi-Fi because hopefully, you have a strong passphrase for that.  

Be suspicious and watch out for seasonal scams

A healthy suspicion of everyone is important to remember while you shop online during the holidays.  If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is a scam. 

Our suggestion: create a free email address via Gmail or Yahoo to use while you shop online. This will keep your primary email safe in case your email is compromised or overloaded with junk mail. 

Email phishing is particularly bad around the holidays. Be cautious when opening emails; if it looks suspicious, don’t open it. McAfee stated, “Since many people do a lot of their holiday shopping online, users should also beware of shipping notification scams, as respondents […] have fallen victim to these scams throughout the year.” So if you receive an unusual email about a delivery (especially for deliveries you are not familiar with), do not open it.

Be careful as you make charitable donations as there are lots of scams during the holidays. Typically, if the email has lots of typos, grammar errors, and/or an unusual looking company logo, it could be a phishing scam.

Shop on sites you know

You can’t trust all the retailers out there. Some retailers are scammers. Shop online for sites you know.  Make sure the URL you are going to has a SSL (https) at the beginning. Sites with https are secure. Be cautious as hackers can imitate the https. Also, look for the padlock icon on the left of the website address which indicates the retailer’s site is secure.

Although we can’t list all the ways hackers and scammers will try to take advantage of you this holiday season, the important thing is to stay vigilant. If something seems fishy, it probably is a scam. Don’t let scammers wreck your holidays; be proactive in protecting your information.  

These tips can be found in the following articles: