It’s as predictable as the Christmas decorations starting to appear right after Halloween. The FBI is reminding shoppers to “beware of cyber criminals and their aggressive and creative ways to steal money and personal information.”
Cyber criminals are certainly “aggressive and creative” all year long, but this warning isn’t so much about their activities. It’s about yours.
During the holiday season, we tend to be stressed, rushed and — hopefully — a bit giddy. Given that we’re moving quickly as we attempt to be as generous as we can be with those we love, we often let our guard down and make foolish mistakes.
The FBI offers 8 tips to assist you in your effort to keep crooks out of your Christmas stockings. But with all the lists we’re trying to keep in our head, trying to remember another one that long could distract you.
Focus is key. So we’ve boiled down all of their instructions into one tip then added two of our own that will make staying safe and private simple.
- Shop deliberately.
Given that nearly every retailer you’ve every done business will attempt to contact you before December 25 with a “special offer,” your inbox is likely to be flooded. It’s also the place where you’re most likely to be scammed. You can avoid most attempts at fraud by shopping deliberately.Think of it like going to a mall. You pick the stores you go into. You don’t let some stranger pop up and drag you into a dark corner without yelling for help.To shop deliberately online, avoid all unsolicited emails. Don’t click on links in them. Don’t fill out forms in them and definitely don’t download attachments to them. Send them to spam so you won’t see them again.Stick to retailers you trust. Go directly to their sites whenever possible use their search tools to shop. If you click on their emails, make sure the URL you end up in is for their official site and it begins with an “https” and displays a lock that signifies secure transfer of your data.If a deal ever seems to good to be true or demands immediate purchase, take a breath. If you still want it, contact the retailer directly, via the phone ideally.Stick to one credit card for your online purchases if possible and check your statement periodically to make sure all of the charges are yours..
- Shop safely.
Even if you’re focused and deliberate, you’re only as secure as the device you use to shop. Make sure all of your system and security software, especially your browser and plug-ins are updated. Use a unique strong password for each account you create. And if you’re smart, you won’t try to remember them. Leave that to a password manager like F-Secure KEY instead.
- Shop privately.
If you’re shopping in public, make sure no one is looking over your shoulder and NEVER, EVER do any sort of shopping over public Wi-Fi, unless you’re running a VPN like our Freedome. Freedome also makes you more secure by blocking bad sites and keeps you focused by blocking trackers that lead to annoying targeted ads.
With a sharp mind, a clean machine and a private connection, you’ll increase your chances of disappointing online criminals — no matter how aggressive or creative they are. Plus, If you don’t want to see ads for the gift’s you’ve already purchased, F-Secure Freedome prevents those annoying targeted ads by blocking trackers that spy on your surfing.