How to Avoid being Hacked this Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us, which means many of us will be making a lot of online purchases and potentially putting ourselves at risk of becoming victims to online theft. In fact, as much as 40 percent of online fraud happens during the months of October, November, and December. You can protect yourself from becoming a victim of online theft this holiday season by following these tips on how to avoid being hacked.

Use Credit Cards Online Rather than Debit

When making online purchases, it’s best to use a credit card instead of a debit card. Although using a credit card to make online purchases won’t necessarily prevent online theft, it’s often easier to get the bank or credit card issuer to remove the fraudulent charges than it is to recoup money stolen from your actual bank account. Using a debit card online can potentially give thieves direct access to your bank account, which could leave you completely broke this holiday season. For added security, don’t let shopping sites save your credit card information and consider shopping with a prepaid card or gift cards, as these aren’t linked to any banking or personal account information.

Lookout for Fake Websites

When making online purchases, be sure to only use official retailer websites and apps since it’s very easy for online thieves to make convincingly real looking copies. Fake websites may try to lure you in with too good to be true deals and once you make a purchase, your credit card information is free for the taking. Protect yourself from fake websites by looking at the URL. Often the URL will look like the retailer’s but will be slightly off, including something as subtle as a hyphen where there shouldn’t be one.

Be Aware of Malicious Apps

When installing retailer apps on your phone or tablet, make sure you’re getting the official retailer app. Last year, a fraudulent Amazon Android app was making the rounds. The app promised early access to Amazon’s Black Friday deals and required complete access to all of the information on your phone. Once the app was installed, it installed a second hidden app that would stay on your phone after the fake Amazon app was deleted and maintained unlimited access to information on your phone. A common play of malicious apps is to ask for overreaching access of your phone or tablet, allowing these bad apps to hijack your device and personal information. When installing a retailer’s app, or any app, ask yourself if the app needs the amount of access it’s requesting to avoid becoming victim to a malicious app.

Buy a Phone with Built-In Security

Switching to a phone with built-in security features can help keep your information safe during the holidays and year round. When looking for a more secure phone, look for ones with mobile processors with built-in security features like Snapdragon. It offers some of the most advanced security features, including malware detection, data protection, and biometric authentication using fingerprints.

Don’t Get Fooled by Phishing Emails

“Phishing” is a tactic used by cyber thieves to get people to hand over their personal information, like social security numbers, passwords, and account numbers, through fraudulent emails. Many of these emails will look like they’re legitimately from reputable companies, tricking people to hand over valuable information. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), many of these phishing scams work by simply asking people to verify their account information, threatening their account will be closed if they don’t respond, or advising fraudulent activity is suspected on their account. If you get an email asking you to verify your personal information, it may be a phishing scam. The SEC recommends calling the company (but never use the number provided in the email) to confirm whether or not your information is needed, go to the company’s website (but never use a URL provided in the email as these can be fake), and to install better security software on your computer.

You can safely shop online and avoid being hacked by practicing a little caution. Being savvy to tactics used by online thieves is one of the best ways to keep your personal information safe and avoid any unwanted surprises this holiday season. Follow these tips and you can shop with confidence!


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