As the year draws to a close and the holiday season approaches, the joy of festive celebrations is often accompanied by an uptick in online activities. From shopping for gifts to connecting with loved ones virtually, the internet now plays a pivotal role in many of our holiday experiences. However, this surge in online engagement also brings an increased risk of falling victim to holiday scams. To ensure a safe and secure celebration, digitally and beyond, here are some essential tips to keep in mind:
- Stay vigilant against phishing attacks: Be wary of unexpected emails, messages or social media posts offering unbelievable holiday deals or making urgent requests for personal information. Scammers often use phishing tactics to trick individuals into divulging sensitive data. They may also impersonate a person or business you know (such as your financial institution ). Verify the legitimacy of such communications by directly contacting the purported sender through official channels before taking any action. And if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Shop from secure websites: With the convenience of online shopping, it's crucial to ensure that you're making purchases from reputable and secure websites. Check that the website's URL begins with "https://"—indicating a secure connection. Across the digital landscape, you may see ads for brands you’re familiar with, but these could be fake, leading to knockoff sites or questionable links. Crafty scammers will often change just a character or two, and it’s easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. Instead of clicking on suspicious links, navigate directly to the official website of the retailer.
- Keep software and antivirus programs updated: Regularly update your operating system, antivirus software and other applications to patch vulnerabilities and protect against the latest cyber threats. Many scams exploit outdated software to gain unauthorized access to your devices or personal information. We update our work computers often, but don’t forget to do this on your personal devices as well.
- Use strong, unique passwords: We can’t stress this one enough: strengthen your online security by using long, complex passwords, at least 14 characters (the longer the better!) and a mix of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and special characters. Never use the same password for multiple accounts. Avoid writing down your passwords and instead consider employing a password manager to generate and store strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts. Don’t share your passwords with anyone. Remember: reputable organizations will never ask for your password – if someone asks, they’re likely trying to dupe you.
- Be cautious with social media sharing: Exercise caution when sharing holiday plans and updates on social media. Oversharing can provide cybercriminals with valuable information for crafting targeted attacks. Always limit the visibility of your posts to a trusted audience.
- Monitor your financial statements: Regularly check your account and credit card statements as well as your transaction history in online banking for any unauthorized or suspicious activity. You can also turn on transaction notifications in online banking or on your phone to get real-time alerts when things are purchased. Early detection of unusual activity can help you mitigate potential financial losses and address security concerns promptly.
- Educate yourself and others: Stay informed about the latest scams and cybersecurity threats. Share this knowledge with friends and family, especially those who may be less familiar with online security practices. Awareness is a powerful tool in preventing holiday scams.
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): Whenever possible, enable two-factor authentication for your online accounts. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification in addition to your password, making it more difficult for unauthorized individuals to access your accounts. A common type of 2FA is a unique code sent to your email or phone that you input when prompted. Never share this code with anyone – it could be someone trying to perpetrate an account takeover scam .
By adopting these precautionary measures, you can navigate the digital landscape with confidence and enjoy a secure festive season. Remember, staying informed and vigilant is key to safeguarding yourself and your loved ones from holiday scams.
Remember: Solarity will never email or text you asking for account numbers, passwords, passcodes, PINs or card numbers. Your peace of mind and financial security are our top priorities.