Holiday Scams and Online Safety

Monday, December 4th, 2017

With the holiday season upon us, millions of people around the world are spending more time online shopping for gifts, catching up with family, and making travel plans. Unfortunately, it's also a time of year when many criminals increase their efforts to scam, steal, and harm others. While the risks may be greater this time of year, some quick tips can help you keep your information safe throughout the season.

  • Lock down your login. One of the most critical things you can do in preparation for the online shopping season is to fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as device verification and multi-factor authentication. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like e-mail, banking, and social media.
  • Keep clean machines. Before searching for that perfect gift, be sure that all web-connected devices—including PCs, mobile phones, smartphones, and tablets—are free from malware and infections by running only the most current versions of software and apps.
  • Shop reliable websites online. Use the sites of retailers you trust. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Conduct research. When using a new website for your holiday purchases, read reviews and see if other customers have had a positive or negative experience with the site.
  • Personal information is like money: value it and protect it. When making a purchase online, be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure you think it is necessary for the vendor to request that information. Remember that you only need to fill out required fields at checkout.
  • Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots. If you are out and about, limit the type of business you conduct over open public Wi-Fi connections, including logging in to key accounts, such as e-mail and banking. Adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your phone.
  • Check the address bar. Look for the green lock icon and https:// in the URL before using your credit card online.

—Peter Lundstedt, ITS

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