A First Foundation Blog

Online Holiday Shopping Security Tips

“On Dasher, On Dancer, On Mastercard, and Visa,” should be the mantra for this year’s Holiday shopping season. Forecasts total U.S. holiday retail sales will reach $1.008 trillion this year! Digital sales will represent 13.4% at $135.35 billion and, naturally, Rudolf will lead this digital spending with his red nose. Cyber criminals would love to have a beacon like Rudolf, showing them holiday treats such as your personal and credit card information. So that you will not be a beacon to the information shoppers, trying to steal your identity and use your accounts as their own Santa fund, practice these cyber safety tips:

Do not use public Wi-Fi

Use your cellular data plan to avoid this place where cyber crooks hang out.

Pay with a credit card

Most cards offer consumer protection in the event your information is compromised.

Secure your mobile device

Update, update, update to keep your device and apps current and protected.

Watch out for these scams

Brick-and-mortar shopping is still appealing to many, estimated to be $872.65 billion, and the joys of the season that come with it – finding parking and standing in long lines. OR you could shop online from the comfort of your home, comparing prices with a click, and some even gift wrap. Cyber scams come in many forms, all trying to get you to “give” a Holiday gift of your personal information. The following are new scams for 2019, and some old ones with a few changes:

  1. Fake order confirmations: A fake email appearing to be from a reputable company (Amazon, Paypal, etc.) with a link to provide personal information to confirm the fake order. Go to the retailer’s website directly and check your account there.
  2. Bogus shipping notices: This is similar to the fake order confirmation but made to look like FedEx, UPS, or USPS, with a link to provide personal information to confirm the package. Instead, go to the shipper’s website to check your account and track packages. When sending gifts, be sure provide the tracking information to the recipient.
  3. Email scams: This tradition has evolved to direct people to download apps that look legitimate but will actually gather your data and open connections to your Facebook, Google, or other apps with personal information. And, of course, there are still the old email scams still in use, such as coupon and discount deals which are too good to be true, and are fake.
  4. Fraudulent websites: Another old scam with a new twist – the site looks like the retailer’s and promotes you to log in. Now the cyber crook has your login for the real site.
  5. Package theft: The package left on your doorstep is stolen. Consider installing a doorbell camera or other home security. Amazon offers special delivery options such as Key for vehicles, Hub Lockers, and Key for garage.
  6. Fake charities: Cyber crooks take advantage of peoples’ holiday generosity and create fraudulent websites posing as real charities. GoFundMe sites are easily created and may not truly be charitable.
  7. Friends and relatives in trouble: This is usually a call or email impersonating a friend or relative needing money because of an emergency. Verify the story by whatever means possible and do not panic or act quickly – that’s what the crooks are hoping for.
  8. Fraudulent social media posts: This is the same as fake charities, just posted to social media to attract interest.
  9. Phony classified ads: Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are great places for fraud. When meeting for a transaction, be sure to meet in a crowded public place.
  10. Intercepted information: The cyber crooks are able to get your information from malware installed to your computer or wirelessly intercept information from your mobile device. Do not leave your devices unattended in public places.

With over a trillion dollars exchanging hands this holiday season, it is no wonder that the “business” of cyber theft will be very active! Be sure to remember these tips to keep your money and data safe.

Adrian S. Darmawan, Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer
About the Author
Adrian S. Darmawan, Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer