In terms of identity theft, data loss and good ol’ fashioned pick-pocketing, the holiday season is one of the riskiest times of the year. When it comes specifically to protecting your personal information, thieves and cybercriminals are counting on you to be distracted and make careless mistakes. Something as simple as losing your phone (full of personal details, photos, financial information and email access) could have disastrous consequences and ruin your holiday cheer. Another careless but easy mistake to make is clicking on a “FedEx” delivery email that wasn’t actually sent from FedEx, and don’t forget the simpler dangers that have been around since the dawn of civilization like simply being pick-pocketed while shopping! Credit card information, mobile devices, and anyone using open Wi-Fi connections for financial transactions are common targets throughout the holidays.
Here are a few tips that can help keep you and your family safe from hackers and thieves.
- Go Phishing – During the holiday, phishing scam emails emulate holiday-centric messages. Scams will often appear to be from legitimate establishments like FedEx or Amazon. Avoid clicking on any links in these emails, or downloading any attachments and never give out your password or account information.
- Skimming a Bit Off the Top – For those of you who aren’t familiar with card skimmers, the premise behind this type of theft is to copy your credit or debit card information by disguising a scanning device on a legitimate source, like a gas pump or ATM. The scammers are then free to use or sell that information. Skimmers are easily overlooked and protecting your information requires constant vigilance. Whenever you’re using a credit card during your holiday travels, look closely at any device that you are going to be swiping your cards on.
- Hide the Goods – Pickpocketing is an old-world method of theft that is still extremely effective – especially in a hectic environment like a mall during the months of November and December.
- Free Wi-Fi is Not Free – Open Wi-Fi access points are easily hacked and you’ll likely have no idea what kind of security the connection will have. It might be a bit costly but using your data instead of open Wi-Fi may save you from having to deal with identity theft in the future. Don’t forget that the global Wi-Fi protocol was hacked in 2017!
- Patch It – It’s always a good idea to keep your technology up-to-date with security patches and bug fixes. Many of the large ransomware attacks that make headlines could be avoided by security patches.
- Social Media for Burglars – For many, social media is about sharing their good times and memories with friends and family. For thieves, it’s a road map to determine when a home is going to be vacant because their owners are traveling and how long they’re going to be gone for. To eliminate a breaking and entering from your holiday season, avoid posting specifics of your trip information on social media.
Criminals are just as excited about the holidays as you are; because they know you’ll be distracted with the same workload and life commitments with the added pressure of holiday deadlines and commitments. Just like in the workplace, you are the last line of defence for scammers. Be sure to take ownership of your security and protect yourself!