Avoid Holiday Hackers:
You should always take steps to protect your financial data during the entire year, but the amount of scams and malware skyrocket during the holidays. Scammers know that more people are using credit cards and shopping online than any other time of the year, so they make an increased effort in creating fraudulent sites, phishing emails, and scam ads made to steal your data. Here are some ways to protect your financial data during the holidays.
Check for HTTPS on the Retail Site
HTTPS is the HTTP protocol with an encryption layer. Any retailer that takes personal information from you must have an SSL certificate installed, which then displays to you in the browser as HTTPS. All of the major browsers show you the certificate name and information when you navigate to a secure site.
If the certificate is invalid or configured for a different site, the browser displays a warning. Before you shop on any online store, the first thing to check is that they have an SSL certificate installed.
Change Your Password to Something Complex
Even if you forget your password later, you should change it to something complex and hard to guess during the holidays. Some retailers get hacked, and then the hackers decrypt passwords. Poorly created passwords are cracked within minutes, and your account is vulnerable. The hacker sometimes logs into your retail account and orders product on your stored credit card.
You’re especially vulnerable if you use the same password across multiple sites. Once the attacker has your account login and password, he can now log in to multiple retail sites from just one attack. You can use password managers such as LastPass to keep track of passwords, so you don’t lose or forget them. It’s good for your financial protection to frequently change your passwords on different shopping websites.
Turn Off Automatic Wi-Fi Detection on Your Smartphone
At home, it’s safe for your smartphone to automatically connect to a Wi-Fi connection. When you’re out shopping, you want to use only your data connection. Smartphones that automatically connect to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot are vulnerable to hackers that create these connections just to steal your data. As you walk by, your smartphone connects to the malicious connection and a hacker can see data you transfer between your phone and any website.
You can turn this feature off while you shop and turn it back on when you get back home. It’s used to save money on cellular data plans, but it’s an easy way for an attacker to gain access to your financial data.
Don’t Give Out Too Many Details About Yourself
The more details you give an online site about you, the easier it is for an attacker to put puzzle pieces together and identify you, your social media accounts, and even your passwords. Websites use profile data to help sell you products that you like, but this data also gives attackers a good background when they want to steal your identity.
Retailers won’t like it, but you should limit the amount of information that you divulge online. Attackers spend a lot of time in reconnaissance researching people that they want to target. You make it more difficult for them when you don’t have a lot of information stored anywhere, and you can even convince them to skip your identity and go for someone else’s.
Don’t Click Suspicious Email Links
Phishing is another common way attackers gain access to your information. They will even hack your friends’ emails and send links to you from the hacked account’s contact list. You’re more willing to click a link from a friend, so it’s more efficient for attackers to use this method. Always be suspicious of any link in an email.
If you get a suspicious email from a friend, email them and ask if the referral is legitimate. You can also help your friends find out if their accounts are compromised. Some open email providers such as Google’s Gmail make it difficult for phishing emails to pass through filters, but some do get through, especially if they come from a hacked friend’s account.
Is It Safe to Shop Online During the Holidays?
Many of the risks of identity theft are associated with online shopping. Cyber Monday is a big day for holiday shopping, and much of it is done online. Retail stores have so many sales, and many of them are for online shoppers only. It’s too tempting to resist the sales for many shoppers, and shopping online reduces much of the stress of shopping at a physical store. During the holidays, shopping at a store can be exhausting with aggressive shoppers, large crowds and long lines.
It’s safe to shop online if you take the right precautions. You don’t have to avoid online stores altogether, but be aware of the red flags and signs of a scam. If it’s too good to be true, you should avoid it.