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How to ‘sleigh’ those holiday scams

6 tips for shopping safe this holiday season:

The holidays are here and so are the sales! It was only a few years ago that I would pore over the newspaper inserts to plot out my shopping trips trying to score a great deal. Nowadays, shopping is as simple as a swipe of a finger on my mobile device.

Unfortunately, this digital convenience has provided fraudsters with new ways to try to scam you. As part of our #PayProtected campaign, I’m sharing timely advice on how to protect yourself when shopping online this holiday season.

I host a weekly podcast, Mastering Cyber, and often hear from listeners about different scams they’ve encountered. Last holiday season, one of my listeners shared a story about a gorgeous wreath she wanted. The only problem? It was too expensive. A few days later, she noticed an ad in her newsfeed for the exact same wreath, only this one was for a price she could easily afford. When her package arrived, she excitedly tore open the box, ready to hang her new treasure on her front door to greet her guests.

In short, the wreath she received was droopy and hardly had the same panache as the one she wanted.

As a cybersecurity professional, I have a few things I do to ensure my personal information stays secure – so the same thing that happened to my listener doesn’t happen to me. So, to help you sleigh the scams and #PayProtected this holiday season, keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep your devices’ operating systems up to date. Those updates contain more than just fancy features. They contain critical security updates that protect you from vulnerabilities, preventing fraudsters from gaining access to your device and personal information.
  • Don’t shop or complete any financial transactions on public Wi-Fi. Instead, wait until you get home or to a more protected network connection. Public Wi-Fi is risky as there could be snoopers waiting to steal your private data!
  • I use my smartphone’s digital wallet every chance I get. Not only is it a safe way to pay, but it’s super convenient too. But just like a physical wallet, it has to be secured. I protect mine with a unique passcode (that isn’t my address, birthday or phone number) and biometrics (such as face or fingerprint).
  • When shopping online, always look for the lock icon where the URL is located, and make sure the URL begins with “https” rather than “http.” Those two indicators mean the data is encrypted and the website is secure. And never shop on a device you don’t own. Instead, shop on your personal device where you have more control.
  • When making purchases, only interact with reputable, reliable vendors. Before you snag yourself a deal, read the reviews and return policy. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Finally, make sure the vendor has a phone number and physical mailing address that you can verify before you buy!
  • Protect your online accounts with multi-factor authentication, known as MFA. Enabling MFA means you require a combination of two or more authenticators to verify your identity before you are allowed to access the service. Why does this matter? Because even if one factor (like your username/password) is compromised, fraudsters won’t be able to meet the second authentication requirement (like a biometric or text code), ultimately stopping them from gaining access to your accounts and walking away with your personal information, money or worse!

Following these simple tips will help ensure fraudsters don’t spoil your holiday cheer!  

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