As we approach the end of 2023, the winter holidays are just around the corner. It’s a time for joy with family and a break from work. However, it’s important to remember that malevolent actors don’t take breaks during festivities. According to insights from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the holiday season becomes a prime opportunity for cybercriminals to steal personal data. As many of us, including you, engage in online holiday shopping, traveling, and donating, it’s crucial to be aware of the tactics used by these criminals.
7 Best Ways to Avoid Cyber Scams During Holidays
Here are seven key cybersecurity recommendations to help you steer clear of holiday scams:
Demonstrate Self-Control on Social Media
Beware of holiday scams on social media, such as fake ads leading to fraudulent sites and deceptive gift exchanges like “Secret Sister”, according to CyberGhost’s blog post. These schemes aim to steal your money and personal information. To protect yourself, refrain from posting vacation plans online to avoid potential burglaries.
No Public Wi-Fi Please
Public Wi-Fi networks lack secure authentication, making it easy for cybercriminals to intercept your data. It’s better to stick to password-protected networks. If you must use public Wi-Fi, employ a VPN for an added layer of protection to conceal your IP address. Also, avoid conducting online transactions on public computers to safeguard your personal and financial information.
Be Watchful for Holiday Phishing Risks
Phishing attacks have reached new levels of sophistication, especially during this holiday season. In 2023, watch out for:
- Brand impersonation: Emails cunningly mimic trusted brands.
- Fake order receipts: Receive a phony bill for an item you never purchased, urging you to click.
- Bogus shipping notices: Amid legitimate emails, disguised phishing attempts trick you into clicking on fake delivery notifications. Mobile users face SMS phishing attacks, exploiting the high open rate of text messages.
- Compromised account warnings: Messages claim your email or security software is compromised – beware of suspicious web pages and pop-ups.
Use Robust Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Strengthening your security involves robust password policies and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Unique passwords, and avoiding browser saves or sticky notes, fortify your security. MFA, like a password and mobile app code, thwarts unauthorized access even if your passwords are compromised.
Implementing these measures, especially during the holidays, mitigates risks of unauthorized access, credential theft, and data breaches. A password manager is key for creating unique passwords across accounts, enhancing overall protection.
Protect Against Unauthorized Card Viewing
Use third-party payment vendors like Venmo, Google Wallet, PayPal, or Amazon Payments to protect your primary funding source. In the event these services are compromised, only the transaction is affected; your credit/debit card or account information remains secure. Prefer “push” payments over “pull” to maintain greater control and receive alerts for potential fraudulent activity.
Avoid Clicking Email Links or Answering Bank Calls
Last year, over half of global emails (56.5%) were spam, totaling 122.33 billion daily. Beware of cybercriminals using fake messages with harmful links. Avoid clicking links from unknown senders. If an email seems suspicious, report it through your provider before interacting.
During holidays, be cautious of social engineering scams. Impersonators may pose as your bank, urging you to discuss a card transaction. Hang up and verify legitimacy by calling the official number on your card before engaging.
Beware of Holiday Charity Scams
Cybercriminals often target generous individuals during the holidays. Before donating, conduct thorough research on the charity, using resources like Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, or GiveWell. Avoid responding to unsolicited donation requests via email or phone.
Instead, donate directly through official websites or phone calls. When making payments, avoid wire money or sending cash; opt for checks payable to the organization or secure online payment methods.
By following these steps, you can enjoy a safer and more secure holiday season.