Avoid long lines and cyber crimes with safe online holiday shopping

With the fast-approaching holiday season, many consumers, like you, will avoid the long shopping lines and opt to snag the best deals online. With the increase in online shopping comes a spike in the transmittal of personal data across the internet. Beware, cybercriminals use the holiday season to “phish” or trick you into giving away your personal information and then use it for nefarious acts.

Arm yourself and protect your personal data with the following security tips:

Shop trusted, secure sites

  • Visit well-known, reliable retailers for your online shopping. Check to make sure there is a https:// in the address bar on web pages. The “sindicates a secure connection and encryption for your personal data during the buying process. Sites without it are not secure. Shop from reputable company apps as well and avoid making purchases with unverified, lesser-known apps.
  • Be cautious when browsing unfamiliar websites. Inspect the website design, product images and terms of service when browsing an unfamiliar site. If the page looks poorly designed or offers much better deals than those you’re finding on websites such as Amazon.com or Walmart.com, it is probably a scam, and the product is you. When you are the product, every account you own is at risk — banking, investments, credit cards, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Only shop using secure networks. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are convenient, but are not secure and can leave you and your data exposed if you are not connected to a Virtual Private Network (VPN). If you need to access an account, disable the Wi-Fi and switch to your mobile network.
  • Install the latest security patches and software updates on all of your devices to help prevent hackers from exploiting weaknesses in outdated apps.
  • Disable Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth on devices when you are done using them. This will help ensure that people aren’t able to connect to your phone for any reason.

Password protect your accounts

  • Make sure your passwords are complex and difficult to crack. Use phrases, numbers and special characters to create them.
  • Do not reuse passwords across multiple accounts and profiles. Cybercriminals will try to use any passwords they find on your other accounts.
  • Never write down a password. Instead, use a password manager like LastPass, which is approved for all university-owned devices.  
  • Use a tool like Haystack to test the strength of your password.
  • Set up 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) and fingerprint scanning, where available, to protect your accounts.

Be aware of scams

  • Be on the lookout for phishing and smishing scams. In phishing, cyber criminals try to deceive you into clicking dangerous links in email; in smishing, they send malicious links in Short Message Service (SMS) or text messages to scam you. Recognize the signs of these scams to protect yourself better from identify and financial theft.
  • Be wary of delivery notifications. Phishers often send fake delivery notifications during the shopping season. Do not click on delivery-notification links from emails you aren’t expecting. When tracking shipped deliverables, it is always best to go directly to USPS, UPS and FedEx websites.
  • Research charitable organizations on Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau prior to donating to avoid scams.
  • Keep watch over your financial accounts. Set up alerts for any cards you use to help monitor activity. Even the smallest charge could be a sign of fraud, so report anything you do not recognize to your banking or credit card institution immediately.

Have a safe holiday shopping season!