How to Stay Safe From Scams This Holiday Season

Ho, Ho, Ho — Oh No! It’s beginning to look a lot like holiday shopping scam season. Here at Go Concepts, we have put together a list of tips to keep your virtual information safe and cozy against hackers.

GO Concepts has been providing trusted IT support and services for the Ohio area since 1997. We have seen many a Christmas season over twenty years later and have collected some valuable intel against scammers. Identity theft, phishing emails, credit card fraud —  we have seen it all! But have no fear because GO Concepts is here to provide a helping (virtual) hand.

Avoid Fraudulent Sites Like the Whos Did the Grinch

Many of us are staying home more often this year, and during a shopping heavy season like Christmas, that can mean online shopping for gifts. While we can’t help with some things, we can help by warning your staff against visiting fraudulent sites! Scammers will try to lure you into compromised sites that can look legitimate but are packed with viruses and malware to steal your information. If you look at the web address bar, a locked padlock on the left and “HTTPS” at the beginning of the URL show if the site you are on is secure.

It’s the season for hot chocolate and fraudulent links in your email! Hackers are clever and will try to fool you with links to pages to put your personal information in, like your credit card or birthday, for example. You can take steps to prevent this by shopping on trusted websites.

Go Big or… Wait, You’re Already Home

It’s advisable to utilize the big companies this holiday season like Target, Walmart, and Amazon. Shopping with these larger, reputable dealers helps minimize the risk of your personal information being stolen. Everybody likes a good deal, but if you find yourself surfing the internet for the lowest price, be mindful that scammers will offer excellent deals in efforts to sway your wallet. These mega-retailers are always monitoring the competitors’ prices, so similar goods are relatively the same. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is, so run the other way to prevent identity theft.

You Get a VPN, and You Get a VPN, Everyone Gets a VPN!

Avoid using public WiFi connections. This is useful all year-round, but especially at such a high traffic time online as the Christmas holiday season. Hackers have software where they can easily hack your phone, computer, or other smart devices connected to public WiFi and steal valuable information like your Social Security Number. Is there a solution to this problem? Having your identity stolen is a nightmare, so by installing a VPN or virtual private network, you are taking steps to ensure safe internet browsing and buying at home and on public WiFi.

Beware of the Overshare

Online shopping is a lot like a first date. You never want to share too much. You know those security questions you get asked before logging into sites for businesses like your bank or health insurance? Hackers will gather information like your children’s names or where you are going on holiday to gain entry into your susceptible information accounts or personal home. It’s always a good idea to be mindful of what you are sharing on social media and with the online businesses you’re shopping on.

PayPal is Indeed Your Pal

In 2019, a survey done by Mastercard noted an 18.8% uptick in online shopping during the holiday season. There are many ways to pay online this holiday season- Credit cards, debit cards, and PayPal, to name a few. Credit card companies tend to have safe holds to detect suspicious activity and alert the owner or prevent the transaction altogether. Debit cards do not offer the protection credit cards do, for a scammer could easily withdraw immediate funds with a debit card. PayPal is the safest option because it uses an encrypted system, so neither the business or potential hackers can view your payment information. When you’re looking at slippers on Amazon or Playstations on Best Buy, remember credit cards and PayPal are your safest payment options.

Thou Shalt Not Pass… This Password Along to Anyone

It may seem trivial, but changing your passwords and PINs along with the changing seasons is a good idea. A strong password does not include any names or dates personal to you, but rather a combination of random numbers and letters are only known to you. Hackers can learn so much about you online, don’t allow them a chance to guess your password is your wedding anniversary. Being vigilant in monitoring suspicious activity on your accounts and email and regularly removing malware and virus from your smart devices can also help prevent you from falling victim to a hacker.

You Don’t Want This Kind of Phish.

Verizon’s 2020 Mobile Security Index had 22% of all data breaches in this day and age due to phishing. Scammers are getting smarter every holiday season. The volume of emails sharing deals, online confirmation orders, and deliveries in your inbox goes up as you shop this time of year. Be mindful of the sender’s email address and careful with who you share your personal information with. The hackers are evolving to make their phishing look legitimate. If an email prompts you to click a link to visit another page to type in your information, it may be fraudulent. Your computer malware software can only do so much, so it’s important to be on the lookout for potential pitfalls into identity theft.

Protect Yourself With the Right Tools

The holidays are a time of joy for many, so to keep the season bright, here is a shortlist of tools to acquire to safeguard your personal information while shopping online.

  • Install Identity Theft Prevention software on your computer and smart devices
  • Take advantage of suspicious activity holds with your bank or credit card provider.
  • Get a new chip card to add an additional padlock against would-be hackers.

At first glance, it may seem like an unnecessary headache to keep in mind all these tips and tools. Having your identity is stolen or your bank account hacked is an even bigger headache so these smaller steps in prevention are invaluable.

Monitor Your Bank Statements and Credit Reports Like Your Identity Depends on It

It’s never a bad idea to check your bank statements and credit reports continuously. During the holiday season, purchases go up, and so should the number of times you check for fraudulent activity. It’s easier to catch theft early on than to try and take back something already lost, like your social security number.

The Christmas season is one to be enjoyed in all its glory, and that includes e-commerce shopping. By following the protective measures highlighted in this article, you can safely shop away without fear of having your personal information being stolen on the internet! GO Concepts prides itself in supporting Developmental Disability Organizations, don’t fall victim this time of year to fraud, and visit https://www.go-concepts.com/ for individualized options to keep your IT secure.