Online Security Tips For The Holiday Season

December 4th, 2014

Reprinted from the Dept. of Homeland Security, November 2014 E-Update

Holiday Shopping Tips From The Fulcrum Group, Dallas Fort Worth IT ExpertsAccording to the National Retail Federation, 141 million people spent $57.4 billion on Thanksgiving weekend alone last year, and consumers spent nearly $600 billion during the 2013 holiday season. The biggest shopping time of the year comes with great deals and benefits to shoppers, but it also comes with risks. While 80 percent of annual online sales occur between Black Friday and the weekend before Christmas, these 4 weeks are also the biggest weeks for scammers and spammers. With the holiday season quickly approaching, it is important to remember that the best gift you can give yourself and your family is the gift of online security.

The following tips can help you protect your personal information when shopping online:

Use and maintain anti-virus software and a firewall. Protect yourself against viruses and Trojan horses that may steal or modify the data on your computer and leave you vulnerable.

Evaluate your software's settings. The default settings for most software enable all available functionality, possibly leaving room for an attacker to access your computer. Check the settings for all software, and especially those programs that connect to the Internet (browsers, email clients, mobile applications, etc.). Apply the highest level of security available that still gives you the functionality you need.

Shop on reliable websites. Take a look at the website’s trademark or logo to make sure it is valid. Also, pay attention to the website’s URL. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).

Protect your personal information. Take the time to check a website's privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there is no policy cited, this could be a red flag that your personal information may be sold without your permission.

Beware of deals that sound too good to be true. Use caution when opening email attachments and do not follow web links included in unsolicited email messages. Watch out for extremely low prices on hard-to-get holiday items. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Look for the lock. When shopping online, check the lower-right corner of your screen for the padlock symbol and make sure the website address begins with “https://” before entering you’re your shipping, billing, or payment information.

Keep a record of your order. Retain all documentation of the order in the event an order does not ship or there are unauthorized charges on your credit or debit card statement. Also, be sure to review your credit card statement each month for irregularities.

Get savvy about Wi‐Fi hotspots. Limit the type of business you conduct when using public Wi-Fi networks. Avoid shopping online when using public Wi-Fi as your information can easily be accessed by hackers on a public network.

If you think you have become a victim of identity theft, file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can also report online fraud to the Federal Trade Commission and file a report with the Department of Justice.

Be on the lookout for our December newsletter, upcoming soon!  In it, Fulcrum IT experts will share some of their recommendations for staying safe online during the holidays!  Until then, feel free to read through our archive of helpful news...