We are into the Holiday Season and Cyber Scrooges – cyber criminals – are alive and well!  Breaches seem to be a daily occurrence.  In the area where I live, they even recommend paying for gas with cash and don’t use a credit card at the pump due to card skimmers.  So, I’m out holiday shopping and I’m lucky if I have two dollars in my wallet.  That means I have to stop at a cash machine to pay for gas.  Wait, that cash machine could have a card skimmer attached to it!  I guess I have to go into the bank to get cash as well!  Bah humbug!

So, here’s some helpful advice to make you and your family a little cyber-safer during the Holiday Season.

  1. Avoid using a debit card! A debit card provides direct access to your bank account.  Most banks will return the funds if a theft occurs, but generally you have to detect it and report it.  It may take time and effort to get the refund.  Use a credit card and review all the charges before paying the bill.  I use a credit card to buy gas!
  2. Regularly review your bank accounts for unknown transactions, say twice a week. Set up alerts so you are notified when large withdrawals are made.
  3. Set up two-factor authentication to access your bank account. This means your bank will text you a code as the final step to log into your bank account.  It is a small pain, but the protection it provides is well worth the effort!
  4. Keep your antivirus software up to date and use strong passwords.  These are absolutely necessary if your device is connected to the Internet.
  5. Finally, use caution when cyber-shopping. We just had a record setting Cyber Monday. The Internet allows us to shop anywhere with ease.  Search engines can provide a wide range of “stores” that are selling the toy your son or daughter must find under the tree Christmas morning.  The problem is you can’t easily tell if the seller is an honest business or a guy on his computer in the basement scamming people.  Bad businesses can buy “likes” and positive reviews for a few dollars to make themselves appear legitimate.  Here are a few cyber-shopping tips:
  • Don’t chase the lowest price. Shop with known and trusted companies.  If something is too good to be true, it isn’t and it can cost you a lot!  Companies that have the lowest price may not be investing in safeguards to protect your personal information.
  • Watch out for limited time offers. You click on a link for the item you want, and low and behold it is on sale at a ridiculous price for the next 90 seconds! Stop! It is designed to prevent you from fully reviewing the product and seller.  It’s not worth the risk.  There will be a legitimate “Black Friday” deal in a day or so!
  • Watch out for websites spelled close to well-established businesses. They can be common misspellings or have extensions on their names.  Hover your mouse over the link and read the URL.  If it reads differently than what you expect, don’t click on the link.
  • Don’t fall for free gifts via email. These are phishing emails designed to enable viruses to be loaded on to your computer to steal your personal data.
  • Never give out more information than is necessary. If a site asks you for your social security number or driver’s license number, etc., stop and decide if you need to provide additional personal data.

We here at Third Rock wish you and your family a very wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

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