Week 4: Practicing Safe Holiday Shopping

holiday shopping with family

We’re back with our final week of cybersecurity awareness tips! With the holidays just around the corner, we’re talking about how to shop safely this season.

Use Credible and Secure Websites

If you have a long gift list, the cost of presents for your loved ones can become overwhelming. You’ll want to take advantage of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday deals to ease the financial strain at checkout. You may even come across an ad or have one emailed to you about an amazing blowout deal for a retailer you’re familiar with. Stop and think before clicking through to the website. Does this deal seem out of character for this retailer? Does the email look different from emails they’ve sent in the past? If the deal feels too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers will set up phishing emails (discussed in Week 1) to lure people into clicking through to fraudulent websites. These websites will look like the websites you’re familiar with, but will have malware installed on them to hack into your device and steal your data.

Research Your Charities

People are more in the spirit of giving during the holiday season. Unfortunately, there are scammers who like to prey upon peoples’ generosity. If you come across a new charity that you’d love to donate to, do a quick background check on it before donating. Search the charity online and see what others have said about it. If the top results are coming up with the charity name and the word “scam” next to it, that is a big red flag. The other thing to look for is where the funds are going. If the website is pretty vague about how your donation is impacting the cause, this is another red flag. If you’re called by a charity, don’t feel pressured to donate over the phone. If the person comes across as aggressive and not taking no for an answer, there is a good chance they’re not calling on behalf of a legitimate charity. There are plenty of resources online and at local outreach organizations that will help connect you to a legitimate charitable organization.

Keep Your Cards Close…

When it comes to shopping online and in-store, be cautious of the sites and places where you’re using your credit or debit card. Like we discussed above, cybercriminals can plant malware on websites and get ahold of your personal information that way. Make sure the places you’re swiping your card are secure as well, since skimmers can be placed on card readers in stores. If you’re feeling uneasy about using your card in a store, your safest bet is using cash. Cash can be hard to come by during the holidays, so you can prepare yourself for next year by setting up a Christmas Club Account. Be wary of where you’re setting your purse or wallet down as well. Misplacing one of those, or leaving them out in the open, invites criminals to take them and steal any valuable items inside of them.

…And Your Phone Even Closer

Holiday shopping can become hectic, especially if you’re shopping during a busy time or with young children in tow. It’s easy to misplace your phone within your own home or briefly set it down on a store counter and forget to pick it up. Be cautious while you’re shopping and keep your phone on you, or within site, at all times. Even though leaving your phone on a counter is an easy mistake to make, it could be a costly one. If your phone ends up in the wrong hands, a criminal could access all of your personal information and even use payment apps installed on your phone. If you take these steps, you will hinder the ability for the criminal to gain access to your phone if it is lost. Make sure that your phone is set up with a secure pin, touch ID or Face ID as an added layer of security.

The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. By being vigilant of which sites you’re using, where you’re shopping and keeping a close eye on your personal items, you can avoid the added stress of a personal cybersecurity breach.

This week wraps up our National Cybersecurity Awareness Month series. We hope that these past weeks have helped you improve your own cybersecurity awareness and that you feel safer handling your finances online and in the real world. At Landmark Credit Union, we make your security and peace of mind a top priority. While we’re continually working to keep your accounts safe, we also want you to have the cybersecurity awareness we’re teaching our own employees. You’re worth more here, and together, we can protect that worth.

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