The Holidays are full of joy, cheer and you guessed it...... scammers!
It's sad to say, but this is a time of year when cybercriminals know we're running around from party to party and overwhelmed with errands. Needless to say, our generous inattention makes us very vulnerable to falling for scams that can cost us if we're not careful.
Good news is, we can together make the lives of hackers miserable by taking a few precautions this Holiday season (and year round!).
Here's 5 steps we strongly recommend you take to protect yourself and your family from Holiday scammers:
1. Email scams (phishing) are the keys to your financial and digital kingdom
We may sound like a broken record warning you against opening emails and clicking on links that seem too good to be true (or threatening), but the number of people that are victims of phishing emails is astonishing, rampant, and on the rise.
This Holiday season you will likely see an increase in emails flooding your mailbox, many of which just want to make you think are coming from a legitimate source and lure you into clicking on a link, download an attachment or share preciously valuable information like credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, login IDs and passwords. Before you know it, you may have given away your identity.
Before you say "I'm smart and cautious enough to not fall for a silly scam!", please make sure you review this cheat sheet. Make sure to click on the image for a larger version and to print and share.
For more detailed information visit our previous post: 5 Red Flags to Spot a Phishing E-mail
2. If you shop while on public wifi, you might as well yell out your credit card number
If you are one to find yourself connecting to public Wi-Fi networks are cafes, hotels and airports, here's the hard truth: They can be as unsafe as brushing your teeth with a toilet brush.
Why? Without getting too technical, free Wi-Fi networks ususally use outdated encryption protocols, which means they can transmit data in ways that are easy for praying eyes to decipher.
Bad actors may simply connect to the network and passively monitor and capture data traffic without you knowing so if you're shopping or visiting sensitive websites like your bank or social media, you may be giving away your passwords or credit card numbers.
Check our our post 3 Reasons Using Public Wi-Fi Is the Worst Mistake for more details
3. Good passwords and multi-factor authentication are your friends
No security blog post would be complete without talking about passwords, right? Having good and unique passwords can be annoying but they can be of great help deterring criminals.
When it comes to passwords, the rule of thumb according to World's Most Famous Hacker Kevin Mitnick is implementing long passphrases that you can remember of 25 characters or more, such as “correcthorsebatterystaple” or “iknewweretroublewhenwalkedin5623” (please don't use these examples!).
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is just a fancy term for multiple ways to prove that you are in fact who you say you are to prevent access if your user name and passwords are stolen. Have you ever been asked for a verification code that is texted to your phone or email? Congrats! You’ve used multi-factor authentication.
MFA may feel inconvenient, but when it comes to your most sensitive accounts, this may be the difference between peace of mind and identity/financial theft We highly recommended enabling this security feature on at least your most sensitives accounts.
If you wonder which websites support Multi-Factor Authentication, you can visit https://twofactorauth.org
Changing every one of your passwords may take too long during the Holidays, but at the very least, we strongly suggest making sure that your bank/credit card, social media, email, and major shopping (e.g. Amazon) accounts have unique and adequate passwords and you have Multi-Factor authentication enabled.
4. Use Credit Card and Bank Transaction Alerts
Setting up transaction alerts (e.g. alert me every transaction greater than $100) with your banks and credit cards is a great way of getting peace of mind no unauthorized transactions are happening behind your back. Or, if your credit card numbers happen to be stolen, you'll be the first one to know if it's used and will be able to put a stop to it quickly before they drain your bank account.
5. Fear You Might Have Been Victim Of Identity Theft? Here's An Action Plan
The sad reality is that millions of Americans fall victims of identity theft every year. If you suspect that you are one of them, there's no time to lose!
To help you recover, the Federal Trade Commission has set-up a website to report identity theft and help you get a recovery plan going.
Visit https://www.identitytheft.gov for more information.