Holiday Shopping? Stay Cyber Secure with These Expert Tips

Cyber Securie

Holiday Shopping? 7 Expert Tips for Staying Cyber Secure

As the holiday season approaches, ’tis the season to be cautious and cyber safe. Over the last couple of years, we’ve witnessed an unprecedented surge in e-commerce sales, and cybercriminals have been quick to take advantage of this trend. 

If history has taught us anything, it’s that the holiday season is prime time for cyberattacks. The increased volume of online shopping and transactions creates an attractive hunting ground for cybercriminals seeking sensitive user information. 

And it’s not just individuals they’re after; businesses are equally vulnerable. That’s why, as experts in managed IT services, Merit Technologies is here to guide you on how to stay cyber secure when online holiday shopping.

1. Regularly Check Your Credit and Debit Card Statements

A recent report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed alarming statistics: In 2020, consumers filed 2.1 million complaints, with losses totaling a staggering $3.3 billion due to imposter scams, including those disguised as lotteries, sweepstakes and giveaways. 

Of this $3.3 billion, $246 million can be attributed to online shopping fraud. These numbers show a worrying upward trend, with losses reaching $1.8 billion in 2019. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on your purchase history to remain cyber secure.

2. Safeguard Your Credit and Debit Card Numbers

Protecting your credit and debit card numbers from prying eyes is paramount for your continued cybersecurity. One effective way to do this is by using third-party payment vendors like Venmo, Google Wallet, Paypal or Amazon Payments. 

If one of these services were compromised, only the specific transaction will be affected. Your credit and debit card details would remain secure. 

Additionally, consider setting up “push” payments instead of “pull” payments. With “push” payments, you initiate the transaction, giving you greater control and enabling you to detect any potentially fraudulent activity.

3. Exercise Caution With Your Inbox

The holiday season is the peak period for your inbox, filled with holiday greetings, sales promotions and end-of-year newsletters. Cybercriminals take advantage of this email flood to launch attacks in the cloud

Be cautious when dealing with emails that contain attachments, especially those with images, as they may conceal malware. Only open attachments from known senders and make use of virus scans when possible. 

Above all, never click on unfamiliar links or respond to unsolicited emails.

4. Avoid Completing Email Message Forms Requesting Personal Information

Unless you are absolutely certain of the sender’s identity and have valid reasons to provide personal information, avoid filling out email-based forms. Your usernames, passwords and sensitive consumer data are highly sought-after commodities on the dark web. 

Want a bonus tip to remain cyber secure? 

For added security, verify the status of your usernames by checking HaveIBeenPwned.com.

5. Be Wary of SMS Phishing

Phishing isn’t limited to email; SMS phishing is also on the rise. Even messages seemingly from brands you trust could be fraudulent. 

A recent Juniper Research report revealed that e-commerce retailers were projected to lose $20 billion in 2021 due to fraudulent activities. This marks an 18 percent increase compared to 2020, with the average value of a fraudulent purchase rising by 69 percent. 

Factors contributing to this surge include the growing popularity of online shopping, identity theft, chargeback fraud, account takeovers and brand impersonation.

6. Verify the Legitimacy of Links

When logging in, always use the official website of the host instead of clicking on potentially compromised email links. If you receive an email from a familiar institution like your bank or credit card issuer, cross-check their contact information to ensure its legitimacy. 

For any requests for personal information, reach out to the organization directly through the contact details provided on their official website. Be cautious of emails that create a sense of urgency or emergencies, as scammers often rely on knee-jerk reactions to deceive victims. Look for wording like “your account will be closed immediately.” 

Want to learn more about phishing scams? Check out our free Phishing Guide.

7. Staying Cyber Secure: If It Seems Too Good to Be True…

As the saying goes, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” Cybercriminals often use enticing offers and deals to lure victims into their traps. 

Don’t leave your cybersecurity to chance. Our experts at Merit Technologies are here to help. 

Contact us or talk with an expert for a free consultation today, and let’s ensure you start the holiday season with the peace of mind that your online shopping is secure.

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