The holiday season is known for cheer and often the act of gift-giving. Your increase in purchases leaves you more susceptible to fraudulent activities and cybercrime. It can be too easy to make gift purchases and not check on your accounts, but it is necessary when cybercrime is an ever-present problem.
Personal information and data needs to be held close to the chest and disposed of properly to minimize potential fraud. Criminals are in full force during this time of year, and take advantage whenever possible. Keep yourself and your wallet safe with these six simple steps:
- Verify phone call sources.
If you receive a call addressing you directly, be sure to research the source. Never hesitate to hang up and validate the phone number. If you receive a call requesting information, tell them you will call them back and use a phone number known to be valid. If the source is genuine, they are understanding of your hesitancy in the wake of the influx of fraudulent schemes.
- Remain vigilant with phishing scams.
The same thing goes for emails. Criminals send millions of phishing emails with links to fake websites with hopes you will provide your private information. Sometimes all it takes it a simple click of the link. By clicking the link, your computer becomes infected and criminals harness your data. This is the quickest method the cybercriminal has into your system and then your data.
Vigilance is key. Beware of advertisements with links to great deals. If something looks too good to be true, be weary. Always verify the URL is correct and that the connection is secure and encrypted. A secure connection is verified through a ‘lock’ symbol in your address bar.
- Look for false credit card scanners when you make a purchase.
Inspect before you swipe. Pay close attention to the physical characteristics of card readers. If it looks poorly constructed, poorly painted or out of the ordinary in any manner, do not use it. If you feel like something is off, follow your gut. Verify the validity of the machines with a cashier or attendant. An awareness of your surroundings is needed to stay vigilant. Pay attention to your surroundings, and ensure that you cover your PIN input from prying eyes.
- Dispose of all personal documents.
Keep all your personal information is a safe space. Digitally, this means password protected. Physically, files need to be kept in a safe space. When you no longer need a physical document, shred any paperwork with your personal information. Putting it in the trash could put you in harms way. Dumpster diving for profitable information is a known activity among criminals. Gift a shredder in your home this holiday season to manage personal data disposal.
- Keep a close eye on your credit card activity.
Utilize apps and safe, encrypted web connections to check your accounts. Be aware of where your current balance lies. Check regularly to monitor acceptable and possible fraudulent behavior. Sign up to receive a copy of your credit report to monitor activity. It is a good idea to sign up for your mortgage reports as well. 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. It will keep you attentive and prevent catastrophic outcomes.
Keep your receipts and a list of transactions as an audit trail. Review online accounts, such as Amazon, for any activity that you did not conduct. Report malicious activity as soon as possible to your credit card company and the business where the transaction took place. One fraudulent transaction can quickly become many more. It is best to nip the problem in the bud.
- Follow your instincts.
If something does not seem right or appears odd, something is probably off. If you feel uncomfortable, your gut is leading you in the right direction. Do not provide any information unless you initiate it. The nature of cybercrime is to get your personal information and use it against you. It is your personal information and it is your right to choose how and when it is distributed. Be overly cautious to prevent criminals from fooling you into being your own worst cyber enemy.
Use your personal judgement when it comes to your information. You can’t be too safe in these times of cybercrime. Credit cards are especially susceptible when it comes to hijacked card numbers and faulty card readers. Phishing schemes and fraudulent phone calls occur frequently too. Stay on-top of your data this holiday season to prevent becoming the next cybercrime target.