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9:57 AM

Protecting Against Cybercriminals During Holiday Shopping

Published December 1, 2016

With one of the biggest cybercriminal hacking-holidays of the year upon us, it's time for a reminder of red flags and tips to keep in mind when shopping online or in stores.

1. Make sure devices are up to date. Whether you’re using your laptop, smartphone or other device, having basic security measures in place will lessen your chance of being a victim.

2. Be careful when using public Wi-Fi. Never share private information on a public Wi-Fi network, even if you think it's safe. Wireless network names are fairly easy to fake and sensitive data like credit card details, login information, etc. can be easily intercepted.

3. Use strong, unique passwords. Over 900 data breaches so far this year have exposed hundreds of millions of records! That information is being sold to fraudsters and the more accounts you have that use the same username and password, the greater the risk for being hacked.

4. Fake Apps. Fraudulent apps are showing up in both the App Store and on Google Play. Before downloading any app, do some research to spot a fake. Look for misspellings of popular apps and remember that retailers who don’t actually have an app are especially vulnerable. Try going to the website directly and check for the official link yourself.

5. “There was a shipping problem with your order” emails. Hmmm.. Smells like a scam! Beware of phishing emails, fake invoices, fake refunds and any urgent email persuading you to open an attachment, click on a link, or fill out a form. Attached documents containing malicious viruses are back with a vengeance, making it critical to pay very close attention to these types of emails.

6. Pay close attention to websites. How did you get to this website? Via email or maybe an ad for a killer sale? Beware of links in phishing emails, counterfeit copies of legitimate sites, and malvertising (yes, those can be found on legitimate sites too). Copied sites can be made to look nearly identical to the real thing. Basic red flags are bad grammar/spelling, shady contact information and unheard of deals on expensive items. Even if the site is real, make sure it's secure by looking for https with a lock.

7. Refrain from oversharing on social media. “20 questions about me” type posts are a goldmine for criminals. Posting that information publicly makes it a lot easier to guess your password, answers to security questions, and makes you a bigger target for social engineering.

8. Free gift card/iPad/[insert must-have item] for completing a survey. Often these are scams looking for personal information that get sold to other cybercriminals. Make sure any offers you sign up for are authentic before sharing any information.

9. Use a credit card (not a debit card). If your debit card is compromised, it's very easy for your checking account to get quickly drained. Charges on a credit card can be reversed, if necessary, without exposing your checking account to fraud.

10. Keep an eye on your accounts and monitor your credit report regularly. Fraudulent spending often starts with small purchases (around $1-$5) that would normally go unnoticed unless you're looking at your transaction history. The sooner it's spotted the easier it will be to getting your money back.

Always remember to think before you click and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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