10 Cybersecurity Tips for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the 2019 Holiday SeasonSubmitted by Reby Advisors | Certified Financial Planners | Danbury, CT on November 26th, 2019
November 27, 2019
More than 174 million Americans will shop during the five-day period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, spending on average $335 per person on the best deals of the year.
Unfortunately, cyber thieves capitalize on shoppers’ excitement through stealth tactics to steal your data, your identity and your money. Protect yourself by heeding these ten tips:
Beware of Links Within Emails
Cyber thieves commonly disguise themselves as trustworthy sources. It’s very easy for a criminal to create an email that appears to come from Macy’s, for example, and trick you into clicking a link disguised as a Black Friday deal that results in an unwanted download or request for personal information.
Before clicking on anything, use your mouse to hover over the link or button. The website address where that link leads to will appear. If it doesn’t seem trustworthy, don’t click it! Here’s what to look for to identify suspicious links:
- Secure e-commerce websites start with “https” – not just “http”
- If you need to track a package by UPS or FedEx, visit the courier’s website directly, not by clicking a link in an email (this is a common phishing tactic)
- Make sure the spelling of the website address is correct – for example, Amazon.com and not Amaz0n.com. Scammers will often buy a website address with just one number or letter different than a reputable company name to make it appear legitimate at first glance.
Hear expert advice from Adam Levin, Founder of Cyberscout and Co-Founder of Credit.com, on how to prevent hackers from gaining access to your email accounts:
Don’t Open Attachments
Trustworthy brands will not send you a Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal in attachment, which may contain a virus, malware, keystroke logger or other malicious program. If the email promises something inside the attachment that you’re interested in, try searching for it on Google or calling the company. Opening an attachment that you didn’t ask for is simply too risky.
Avoid Pop-Up Advertisements
Your email inbox isn’t the only place you may be vulnerable to cyber attacks. When an unwanted ad pops up on your computer screen as you browse the internet, it may be “malvertising,” or malicious advertising designed to capture your personal information or infect your device with adware, spyware or ransomware, which locks your device until you pay a “ransom” to the criminal. Remember, if a sale or special offer is real, it will be on the company’s website, not just in a pop up on a third-party site.
Consider Paying Through a Third Party
You may have heard of e-skimmers at gas stations or ATMs where a small device is installed and steals your credit card information when you swipe. Sophisticated cyber criminals have found ways to achieve the same result on e-commerce websites. Paying through a third party such as Venmo or PayPal prevents your credit card number from ever being entered into these websites.
Pay with a Credit Card Rather than a Debit Card
Thanks to the Fair Credit Billing Act, consumers are only liable for up to $50 in fraudulent charges on a credit card. Many major credit card companies take it even further, offering “zero liability” policies.
Moreover, if anything seems off with regards to an ATM machine or gas station pump where you plan to swipe your debit card, find another ATM or pump to minimize the risk of having your credit card information stolen by an e-skimmer.
Use a Virtual Private Network to Gain Access to Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is a playground for cyber criminals. As Adam Levin, author of SWIPED, says, “free Wi-Fi isn’t free” because there’s a good chance you will end up paying for it later when your data gets stolen:
Whether you’re at Starbucks enjoying a seasonal coffee, or in a hotel as you travel for the holidays, do not use the public Wi-Fi for email, banking or making purchases. If you travel frequently or absolutely must use public Wi-Fi, invest in a Virtual Private Network (VPN) such as ExpressVPN. A VPN encrypts your online activity so that hackers cannot easily steal your data.
Remember, There’s No Free Lunch
You know the age-old wisdom: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. However, Black Friday and Cyber Monday can blur the line because some retailers create amazing deals just to get you on their websites or in their stores. In addition, the financial pressure of the holidays makes freebie offers and surveys for cash or gift cards more enticing. Scams designed to capture your credit card or personal information are prevalent year-round, but they’re even more common during the holiday season.
Remember, hover over the link or button in an email to see where it leads, and if you don’t recognize the website name where the link points to, don’t click it. In fact, it’s best to avoid surveys altogether.
Vary Your Passwords
You can take every precaution and still end up falling victim to cyber crime. If one of your passwords ever gets stolen and becomes available on the dark web, you’ll be even more compromised if you’re using that same password for your email, banking, investments, social media and other online accounts. Minimize the damage by varying your passwords.
Monitor Your Accounts
It’s not if, but when. Nearly everyone will fall victim to cyber crime at some point in their lives. To minimize the financial damage and reduce the headache of repairing your credit, you need the ability to address any breaches right away. Invest in a credit monitoring service, review your credit reports thoroughly and sign up for transactional alerts from your credit card companies and banks.
Watch out for Gift Card Scams
A criminal may scan or write down a gift card number in the store, then drain the funds before an unsuspecting victim buys it. Inspect any gift card before buying it to ensure nothing has been scratched off and that it hasn’t been tampered with. The code or pin should not be visible.
Following these 10 tips for holiday season cybersecurity will help prevent this joyous time of year from being marred by an unscrupulous criminal.
For more information about how to protect yourself, go to: http://www.rebyadvisors.com/cybersecurity