‘Tis the Season for Cybercrime

By: James Harrison November 25, 2020

By now, most of us are aware of the risks and scams associated with online shopping, but with COVID this year, more people than ever plan to do their holiday gift-giving from personal devices and computers. Scammers and identity thieves know this and are getting really good at tricking people to give up personal information and steal their money. If there was ever a time to take proactive steps to ensure you minimize your risks online – it is now.

Here are the top tips for staying safe this holiday season (be sure to share with friends and loves ones!):

Think before you click.

Clicking on random, unsafe links in emails, fake websites and social media posts is the best way to fall victim to a scam. Most of these fake emails and posts with amazing offers will appear as they came from top retailers or brands. Also watch for fake invoices or shipping notices about a package that supposedly couldn’t be delivered. These emails and text messages try to trick you into clicking a link or downloading an attachment but contain malware that infects your device when downloaded.

Remember, if an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t click on those links. Even these fake links can be masked to look legitimate – so be careful. Instead, go to the retail site directly to determine if the offer is real. You can always check links before clicking on them by hovering your cursor over the link. If you don’t recognize the destination URL, don’t click.

Shop sites you know.

To avoid falling for online imposters, only interact with trusted websites, preferably those you’ve used in the past. If you do decide to shop at less-familiar sites, be sure to do your research. Unless you’ve previously created an account with a trusted retailer, be sure to check out as a guest, and don’t store your credit card information online with them.

Watch for fake app downloads.

Many smartphone apps are fun and entertaining, which is why people love them. Watch out for clone apps that may look like they are from a favorite company or retailer but are really designed to steal your personal and financial data. Only download apps from reputable app stores such as Google Play and the Apple App Store. These have rigorous standards to keep malware-laden apps off your smartphones.

Be charitable, but careful.

During the holidays, our desire to be generous and charitable could make us vulnerable to fake charity scams that pop up in emails and social media. If you receive an email or get a shared post soliciting monetary donations, don’t click on the link. Instead, verify the legitimacy of the organization by checking on Give.org. Then go directly to the organization’s website to make your donation.

Don’t publicly post your virtual gatherings online.

With the 2020 holiday season and COVID-19 risks, you may be opting to stay home and avoid potentially exposing elderly and/or vulnerable family members. To keep uninvited guests from joining your gathering, be sure to send invites for your video meetings directly to friends and family. Do not post the link to your private gathering on social media. You should also be sure your meeting is set to invitation-only.

Get a home cybersecurity checkup.

Scammers and thieves can install spyware on your computers giving them access to your personal and financial information. Before you spend more time browsing and shopping online, it’s a good idea to give your computers a full security checkup. Do a thorough virus and malware scan and make sure your anti-virus is working properly, be sure your browser privacy settings are correct, and that your system is updated with the latest security patches. If your computer is running slower or you start to see more popup ads than usual, you may have spyware.

With smart TVs, smart speakers and all kinds of gadgets connecting to your home network, it’s also a really good idea to ensure that your home Wi-Fi network is secured and keeping the bad guys out. You should be using at least WPA2 encryption and change the default name and password. Also, be sure the main devices you use to control your home security and other smart home systems (such as your smart phone) are safe and secure.

Tip: The iDefend cybersecurity and identity protection plan from INVISUS now includes a complete home cyber defense checkup at no extra cost, making it easier than ever to get expert help locking all your digital doors and staying cybersafe this holiday season.

So go ahead and make your shopping list and check it twice, but please be sure you are doing all you can to minimize your risks and keep the scammers and thieves away. And don’t forget to remind your kids about the basics of online safety as they shop online too!