How to Stay Cyber Safe: Holiday Scams Edition

Nov 22, 2023

 ‘Tis the season to online shop but watch out for rampant holiday scams. With all the hustle and bustle, this time of year is a prime opportunity for scammers to take advantage of distracted consumers. 

Here are 4 tips to help you avoid the holiday grinches looking to steal your personal information.  

1. Be Cautious with Online Retailers

One tactic scammers use is crafting deceptive holiday-themed websites that impersonate popular retailers to trick viewers into entering personal information. Vigilance is key! 

  • Manually visit the website instead of relying on links sent via email or text message to avoid dangerous links.   
  • Always verify the authenticity of the seller before making a purchase. To do this, perform a quick online search to ensure the company is reputable. 
  • Pay attention to the URL for any spelling errors and unusual characters or numbers.   
  • Inspect the content of the website to see if anything looks fishy. Grammatical errors, inconsistent branding, or no Terms and Conditions page are all clues to a fraudulent site.  

2. Watch Out for Package Scams

A common holiday scam through email and text message is one that impersonates postal carriers and declares a package undelivered or that more information is needed from the recipient.  

The reader is enticed to click on a tracking link that leads to a fraudulent site or to call a false number in the message. The primary goal is to coax you into giving away personal information or to install malware onto your device.  

  • Postal carriers will rarely ask for this type of information. Never click on a suspicious link, and never reply or engage in communications with the package scammer 
  • Should you be waiting for a delayed package, stick to the original tracking number or link you were provided at the initial transaction, or contact the postal carrier directly.  
  • Always independently search for the postal carrier’s contact information because you can’t trust the information in the message.  

Check the FCC’s guidelines on avoiding package scams here. 

3. Monitor Banking Statements and Carefully Choose Payment Method

While it’s always important to keep track of your purchases, pay extra close attention during the holidays.  

  • Regularly compare your purchases to your bank statement to ensure no fraudulent transactions have been made. Catching these false transactions is easier to deal with when caught early, so be on your toes!  
  • Debit cards don’t generally have the same level of protection that paying with a credit card does. Opting for credit cards over debit cards for online purchases is a safer choice, given the enhanced fraud protection that credit cards typically offer. 

4. Keep 2FA Turned On

Utilizing two-factor authentication (2FA) on accounts should be a year-round practice, but it’s especially important as a second line of defense against holiday scams.  

  • If your private information or credentials get stolen by a scammer, 2FA adds an extra layer of security, preventing unauthorized access to your accounts. It’s recommended to enable 2FA on all accounts that offer it.  

For more information about 2FA and how it works, Securus can explain here.  

While the holidays are a whirlwind full of endless tasks, taking a few extra moments to verify online retailers and to question suspicious messages can save you from a world of inconvenience. Remember, these cyber safety practices aren’t exclusive to the holiday season – they’re habits worth adopting and maintaining throughout the year. Stay vigilant, stay secure, and enjoy the festivities responsibly! 

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