October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and as the holiday season approaches, cyberattacks often increase. With the prevalence of online shopping, there are tips and strategies shoppers should keep in mind to protect their data.
Thomas Holt is a professor and the director of on-campus master’s programs for the School of Criminal Justice in Michigan State University’s College of Social Science. Holt shares tips to help you reduce the risk of identity theft or scams as you begin holiday shopping.
What steps should consumers take to protect their financial and personal information when shopping online?
Your main risks during the holidays come from phishing and other scam emails and texts that are tailored to the activities we engage in. Scammers try to take advantage of increased shopping during the holidays as well as pressures to get products delivered by specific dates — frequently tailoring the messages they send to ensure you click on them. For instance, holiday scams often use language claiming you need to log in to your account to look at a shipping issue or that your payment didn’t go through. They also will use language indicating you have a very short window to resolve the problem (24 hours for instance).
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Always make sure to look at the email address of the sender and what link they’re trying to take you to before you actually click to open or respond. If you notice it is not from an official email address (like Anazon.com instead of Amazon.com), then it is a scam and should be deleted.
2. Keep track of where you’ve made purchases and how items will be delivered. If you didn’t buy anything that ships through a delivery service like DHL, then you can likely ignore that text asking you to click the link to confirm your address.
3. Make sure you only buy goods from trusted sellers and platforms. Ads for luxury products at deeply discounted prices that you see on social media are likely either selling counterfeit products or pose a risk of stealing your credit card information.
5. Keep an eye on your bank and credit card accounts for any suspicious activity, like charges you do not recognize. Those are immediate indicators that your personal information may have been compromised.
Taking these tips into consideration may help keep you safe from cybercriminals and allow you to enjoy the holidays with less stress.