Holiday Season Cybersecurity Tips

The holiday season is just around the corner, so make it a cyber-safe one with the following tips.

Go directly to the source and log in from your browser.

Phishing emails will be on the rise. I expect the usual suspects - shopping sites (i.e., Amazon, Walmart), shipping companies (i.e., FedEx, UPS, DHL) and social media sites will be targeted. Remember the basics. If the link lands you on a shopping site or any other site that normally requires a login, go to the site directly (\[.]com), login, and search for the item of interest.

Watch out for red flags and lookalikes.

Two possible malicious scenarios for shipping companies: a) link asks you to log in, or b) link asks you to download shipping manifest (receipt). Both scenarios should be a red flag and in both, check the website you land on. Scammers will be using look-alike websites to mimic the appearance but serve malicious content. Visiting a website directly and not from the emails is your safest bet for any scenario.

Expect a rise in SMS phishing scams. Remember, many legitimate and malicious operators use URL shorteners to compress the URL. The downside is you don't know where you land until you click. The other danger of mobile scams is the absence of a valid caller ID.

Keep your deliveries safe.

From in-store pickup to office delivery, there are ways to thwart porch pirates’ plans. Get your Amazon presents delivered to Whole Foods or any of their other convenient pickup locations. Many department stores let you pick up order deliveries at the store. Once you receive your packages, break down empty boxes and discard them properly in your recycling bin. Leaving traces of brand new expensive merchandise on the street may attract petty thieves to your house.

Don’t fall for over-the-top deals.

Like every year, there will be an explosion of "too good to be true" deals. Don't fall for it. Your mother's rule still applies. Especially if it came through social media, remember, everyone is Britney Spears on social media. Don't use debit cards for online purchases. It is tied to your bank account, and any funds that are stolen may not be recoverable. Use your credit card instead.

Track your orders for shipping delays.

With supply chain delays and shortages, I expect new types of crime to be on the rise where the merchant will warn you on potential delays in shipping for a very-well priced product at the time of purchase or later. Then charge your credit card and never ship the product. Possible delays are already on your mind but remember that you have a limit of ninety days to disputer the charges with most credit card companies.

Check your credit card statement regularly.

Over the next three to four months, be more diligent and watch for sign of misuse and unknown transactions. It is also a good idea to order your credit report in January/February to spot any potential identity theft. Criminals know we will be distracted during the holiday season.

I wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season.