While our health and that of our loved ones is paramount, many of us will be doing more of our holiday shopping online at this time of COVID-19. Shopping online is convenient and, let’s face it, it can save us from the craziness that is the holiday season. However, do not let your guard down during this jolly time; the holidays are here but so are the cyber crooks!
The attacks you may encounter will be unique but most of the attempts to get you to divulge your personal or payment information use common techniques to try and fool you into being careless. Keep the following in mind as you find your way through your busy inboxes and social media feeds this holiday season.
Phishing emails are Widespread. Be on the lookout for emails that look like they are from a legitimate source. My intention is not to single out Amazon, but it is a popular and convenient site that many of us have come to rely on. Be on the lookout for emails with a sense of urgency, such as “your account has been locked out,” “update your payment details immediately,” or “your shipment is being delayed.” Pay close attention to who is sending those emails, avoid clicking on links, and refrain from providing any personal and financial information. It’s best to err on the side of caution and simply delete emails that are requesting information from you.
Beware of Fake Social Media Ads. Cyber crooks are geniuses when it comes to imitating websites that look just like the ones you frequent when shopping online. Places like Amazon, Macy’s, and the NFL store are a few that come to mind. Be extra careful when you encounter ads from retailers while perusing your social media feeds. Fake ads will quickly appeal to us because they offer screaming deals that are tough to ignore. Cyber crooks rely on our trust in social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; however, these channels do not vet business pages before they go live on their platforms. Your safest bet is to navigate to the shopping site of your choice and perform your shopping from there.
The key to staying safe online is to remain diligent while using your online tools. Exercise good judgment. Nothing is as urgent as keeping your personal and financial information secure. Deals that are too good to be true are and should not be prioritized over your personal data. Be the Grinch who stole Christmas from the cyber crooks and not the other way around! Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season!
Mary Rueda is an information security professional. She obtained her Master’s degree from Regis University, holds the designation of CISSP (Certified Information Security Professional), and lives in Northwest Denver. You can find her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/maryrueda/