There is one thing cyber-criminals can count on when seeking ways to steal your personal information when you’re shopping online – that people are too trusting.
With the holiday shopping season in full swing, I need you to have a healthy dose of skepticism. Be suspicious of all email you get, including those that appear to be from a person or company you know. Cyber-crooks get into the action by obtaining personal information that can be used to steal credit card numbers or open accounts in a victim’s name.
When shopping online, beware of pop-up ads claiming you can get an incredible deal on some consumer items.
You might be thinking: Don’t people know this already? Don’t they know what it takes to avoid being a victim of identity theft? Haven’t they already been warned not to open up emails that appear to be from legitimate companies but then ask for information those companies would already have? Don’t they know not to click on links offering deals that sound too good to be true?
Yes, I believe many people know the drill. They’ve been repeatedly warned. Or they’ve heard the tips offered year after year during the holidays. But it’s one thing to know how to protect yourself. It’s quite another to use this knowledge to effectively protect yourself, especially when a great deal is being dangled online.
So, follow these cyber safety tips from the Better Business Bureau:
• Keep in mind this is prime phishing season. Identity thieves have become extremely skilled at sending emails that look authentic. Often the goal is to install malicious software on your computer or steal personal information off your computer. The messages in emails may claim there is a problem with your holiday order or your account in an effort to lure you into revealing passwords or personal information. Don’t click on links or open attachments. If you receive this type of email, call the contact number on the website where you made your purchase to confirm that there really is a problem with your transaction.
• Be careful about clicking on links that are displayed as part of your top results from an online search. Hackers know how to snare victims through a technique called search engine optimization poisoning. They know that people might be searching for “holiday sales.” Using such keywords, they then drive you to websites set up to capture your personal information or to sell you inferior or fake products. If you are unsure about a link without clicking on it, hover over it with your cursor to see what comes up. The string of cryptic numbers won’t match a company’s real Web address.
• Double-check that a website is secure. Only enter personal information such as credit card numbers in secure, encrypted websites. Look in the address box for the “s” in “https://” and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying.