Expert Tips on How to Avoid Becoming The Victim of Cybercrime Activity This Holiday Season
This the season for shopping and searching for great deals. This also makes it the season for fraud and cybercrime activities. Make no mistake: the bad guys are even more active during this time of the year. They want to insert themselves into your transactions and separate you from your hard-earned dollars. How can you keep yourself safe?
Dr. Richard White is an expert in the fields of cybersecurity infrastructure, remediation and program development, and is author of Cybercrime: The madness behind the methods. He is the former Chief Information Security Officer for the United States Capitol Police, and course chair for the Cybersecurity and Information Assurance program at the University of Maryland University College.
Dr. White says holiday shoppers can keep themselves safe by following a few simple rules:
- - Never divulge personal information to anyone who calls you. The operative being – those who CALL YOU. If you receive a call requesting information, tell them you will call them back and use a phone number known to be valid. The same thing goes for emails. Criminals will send out millions of phishing emails with links to fake websites hoping you will provide your private information. This is the fastest way the cybercriminal has into your system and then your data. BE VIGILANT!!! Beware of advertisements with links to great deals. Always verify the URL is correct and that the connection is secure and encrypted.
- - When using your credit cards, be aware that fake scanners are out there. Pay attention to the physical characteristics of the card reader. If it looks poorly constructed, crudely painted or out of the ordinary in any manner, do not use it. Also, be aware of where and how you use your credit cards and pay attention to your surroundings and ensure that you protect your PIN from prying eyes.
- - Take a baseline! What are your current balances and charges on each card? What are the balance and charges on each of your accounts? Get a copy of your credit report, as well as any mortgage or significant other account balances. Use this information as your personal finance baseline and then, once the holiday period is over, create another baseline and compare the two for authenticity. This type of diligence will keep problems from becoming catastrophic. Keep your receipts and a list of transactions as an audit trail. Review your credit report and any online accounts such as Amazon for any activity that you did not conduct. Report any malicious activity immediately to the credit card company and the company where the transaction took place. One fraudulent transaction could quickly become many more.
- - Shred any paperwork with your personal information. Putting it in the trash could put you in harms way. There are criminals who dumpster dive for profitable information. In fact, gifting a shredder for your home is a great holiday present.
- - Always follow your gut. If something does not seem right or appears odd or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, do not provide any information. The nature of cybercrime is to get your personal information and use it against you. It is your information and it is your right to choose how and when it is disseminated. Be overly cautious and prevent the bad guys from duping you into being your own worst cyber enemy.