Tis the Season to Get Hacked: Don’t Become a Holiday Cybercrime Victim

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It’s that time of year again. Cyber Monday, the day after Thanksgiving weekend, is one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. And
cyber grinches have your personal financial information at the top of their holiday shopping lists. Searching for gifts on the web and using mobile and online banking tools can make consumers easy targets for identity thieves. According to the 2011 Identity Fraud Survey Report by Javelin Strategy & Research, 40% of identity theft victims had their information misused while making an online purchases, compared to just 13% for purchases made by mail or over the phone.

While you’re getting into the spirit of holiday giving, remember that’s when cybercriminals are planning to take you to the cleaners. Consumers need to understand that their online personal information can be stolen in a variety of different ways. And it’s important to know how to spot all of them.

Beware of the Company You Keep Online

Among the most sophisticated online holiday scams are fake profiles on ecommerce and social networking sites. These bogus profiles and websites are designed to look like name brands to convince users to click on their content. When they do, malware hidden in Facebook links and Twitter posts will get downloaded on their computers. Even worse, when an employee does some holiday shopping at work and clicks on one of these links, his company’s online security could be compromised.

A 2011 survey by Check Point Software found that phishing and social networking tools are the most prevalent sources of social engineering threats. This hacking technique uses social networking and Web 2.0 apps to trick people into revealing sensitive personal information. The survey found that nearly half of the companies polled had experienced 25 or more social engineering attacks in the past two years.

When it comes to holiday hacking scams, that’s just the beginning. Here’s how you can protect yourself from cybercrime while you’re browsing and shopping online.

Give Yourself the Gift of Online Security

∙ Make sure your firewall is turned on and your virus and malware protection are updated. Run frequent scans.

∙ Use strong passwords composed of at least eight non-consecutive letters and numbers, as well as some symbols. Use different passwords for each site and change them often.

∙ Shop securely by making sure you only use websites with a closed padlock on the browser bar. Also check to make sure that the site’s URL address changes to s-http or https when you’re prompted to provide payment information.

∙ Never shop with a debit card. If your account is compromised, a hacker may be able to access you checking or savings account and empty it. Credit cards provide better protection from identity fraud, should you be victimized.

∙ Don’t shop on bargain websites and don’t click on any e-tail links that you don’t recognize. They could be cybercrime enterprises set up to steal your personal information.

∙ Never use a debit card for online shopping. If your information is compromised, hackers may be able to access your checking or savings account. Credit cards offer better protection against identity fraud, should you be victimized.

∙ Check the privacy policy of any store you buy from to ensure that
your information remains private and it isn’t sold.

∙ Don’t enter personal information in pop-up screens. They’re a common vehicle for identity thieves.

∙ Never respond to emails asking to confirm your information after you shop or make holiday hotel reservations. These are phishing scams designed steal your information.

∙ Avoid downloading holiday jingles, ringtones, screensavers and animations. They could be hiding malware.

∙ If you get an ecard from an unfamiliar address, don’t open it. The real ones will have an address you recognize and a personal message.

∙ Check your credit card and bank statements often for any suspicious
activity. If you bank online, make sure any email containing a link to your bank statement is the real thing.

∙ Never shop on unsecured Wifi networks at home or at Wifi hotspots. Give yourself and your loved ones the gift of online security. Purchase a personal VPN (virtual private network) like PRIVATE WiFi™. PRIVATE WiFi encrypts the data traveling to and from your computer
so it’s safe from cybercrime.

Get Private Wifi   Protect your personal information.
Get DataCompress   Cut your mobile data usage.

Jan Legnitto

Jan Legnitto is an investigative journalist and documentary producer who writes about criminal justice and intelligence issues. Jan is also a frequent contributor to the Private I blogs.