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Cyber security tips for holiday shopping

The holiday shopping season is in full swing and you’re probably busy buying gifts for everyone on your list. Here are a few cybersecurity tips to ensure that your online holiday shopping is safe.

Shop reliable websites, and get there safely

If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Don't be fooled by the lure of great discounts by less-than-reputable websites or fake companies. Use the sites of retailers you know and trust, and get to their sites by directly typing a known, trusted URL into the address bar instead of clicking on a link.

Conduct research

There are a lot of fake and malicious companies out there this time of year. When considering a new website or online company for your holiday purchases, read reviews and see if other customers have had positive or negative experiences with them. Also, verify the website has a legitimate mailing address and a phone number for sales or support-related questions. If the site looks suspicious, call and speak to a human.

Always think twice before clicking on links or opening attachments

Even if they appear to be from people you know, legitimate organizations, your favorite retailers, or even your bank. Messages can easily be faked. Use known, trusted URLs instead of clicking on links. And only open know expected attachments. When in doubt, throw it out!

  • Especially beware of fake package tracking emails, fake e-cards, and emails requesting that you confirm purchase information. These are particularly common this time of year.

Keep clean machines

Before searching for that perfect gift, make sure Internet-connected devices — including PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets, — apps, browsers, and anti-virus/anti-malware software are patched and up to date.

Protect your passwords

Make them long and strong, never reveal them to anyone, and use multi-factor authentication (MFA, also called two-factor or 2-step authentication) wherever possible. Learn more about setting strong passwords.

Check the address bar

Look for https:// (not http) in the URL before using your credit card online.

Check your credit card and bank statements regularly

These are often the first indicators that your account information or identity has been stolen. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.

  • Stay safe with text alerts. Most banking apps and sites provide the option to set alerts, such as a text message for every transaction over a specified dollar amount or a daily text summary of your current balance. Set these alerts and use them to spot signs of unusual activity.

Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots and public computers

Treat all Wi-Fi hotspots and public computers as compromised, even if they appear to be safe. Limit the type of business you conduct on them, including logging in to key accounts, such as email and banking, and shopping. And set your devices to “ask” before joining new wireless networks so you don’t unknowingly connect to an insecure or fraudulent hot spot.

Article courtesy of November 2017, University of California, Tips to Protect Your Information during the Holiday Online Shopping Season

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