There's nothing quite like the holiday season, but 'tis the season to take precaution! Whether you're traveling home to see the family, spending some time with close friends, or even just taking some time to kick back and relax by yourself, a little time off around the holiday allows everyone to step out of "work mode" and focus on the other important aspects of life. Still, if you're not careful, your time off from "work mode" could wind up sending you into "panic mode."
Naturally, the holiday season causes more online traffic. Unfortunately, cyber-criminals are aware of this and are more likely to try to get unsuspecting victims to bite on a phishing scam or malware campaign.
So, with your well-being in mind, we put together this list of tips for avoiding these online holiday nightmares!
5 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Headaches
Tip #5 - Don't Automatically Download Attachments
It's not a good idea to allow your email settings to automatically download attachments. While you may be expecting an opened email to contain a few cute pictures of your nieces and nephews, some cyber-scammers will send messages that appear to be from your loved ones, but actually contain attachments that will automatically install harmful code onto your system. You can turn off automatic downloads in your email settings. Even if you're not enabling automatic downloads, always be careful with files that you choose to download through an email. Take the time to verify that the email is coming from who you think it is before you click that "download" button.
The same rules go for links within the body of an email. Clicking a link can cause just as much damage as downloading an attachment.
Tip #4 - Do Your Research When Shopping Online
You've got to be careful while trying to find great deals online. Often times, a simple Google search of a vendor can be enough to steer you away from entering your credit card information to a illigetimate operation. If someone has lost money or is unhappy with the service of a vendor, chances are, they've sounded off about it online. Don't take any chances when it comes to giving out your payment information. For more tips on safe online shopping, check out our post from Cyber Monday.
Tip #3 - Be Cautious of Fake Charities
Giving can often be more rewarding than receiving. Still, you've got to be careful when selecting a charity to donate your money to. Scammers will try to go after your emotions by posing as charities for military families or families affected by recent disasters. Again, a little research will more than likely be enough to educate you on whether or not the charity that you're thinking of giving to is legitimate. If you'd like to make sure that your charity of choice is legitimate, check out the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance page.
Tip #2 - Update Your Anti-Virus & Anti-Malware Software
Make sure that you're updating your system and running scans often. Don't put off updating your Operations System, these updates can contain patches that may help protect your system from these attempted scams. It might seem like an inconvenience to do a re-boot of your computer in order to update it, but trust me, it's better than the possible alternatives.
Likewise, there are often updates available for specific internet browsers. If you notice an alert to update your browser for free, make sure you take advantage of it.
Tip #1 - Never Give Financial Information Through Email
You may receive an email from a vendor that asks you to verify your payment information. Never supply financial information in this way. If a vendor needs to verify your payment information, you should go directly to that site or find the contact number and speak to someone directly about it.
What if it's Too Late?
If you're reading this blog and thinking to yourself "welp, I've broken a bunch of those rules," it's time for you to take action. First of all, check your bank account and review any and all charges. If you feel your account has been compromised, you should close out that account immediately. From there, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team suggests that you immediately file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
So, there's our list. Hopefully, you won't have to worry about ANY of this and can spend your holiday enjoying some Figgy pudding (whatever that stuff is...).
Another holiday treat is up for grabs!
Holiday scams aren't the only headaches you should be avoiding. Check out our eBook on Dodging Danger: 5 Hidden MSP Pitfalls (and How to Avoid Them)!
By Meaghan Moraes
By Lily Teplow