Many consider holiday season the happiest time of year; cold breezes that inspire cuddles, scented candles that fill the air with warm spices, and cheers over cookie flavored cocktails. So much joy surrounds the final days of the year, most folks aren’t aware of those who seek to take advantage of their charitable mood.
Cyber-hustlers know that everyone is seeking to spend, and they are looking to get a slice of the merry money pie. But just how lucrative is the happiest time of year? Trends show spending will likely surpass $1 trillion in the U.S. alone in 2019, with 33% of the population expecting to splurge on at least $1,000 in gifts for family and friends.
While those numbers are impressive, so too are those of the cyber-criminal community. Last year, consumers lost more than $1 billion to scams with a nearly 30% increase in losses between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Thankfully, you don’t have to spend another dollar learning to safeguard yourself; we have the holiday scoop on how hackers plan to snatch up some of your breadcrumbs.
Big Business Breaches
While retailers do try to make sure shopper’s information is protected, data breaches happen every day. Scammers often hack company networks to steal personal and financial information from unsuspecting patrons. A good example of this occurred in September of this year when popular app DoorDash was hacked, leading to the exposure of private information for 4.9 million employees, users, and merchants. During this particular breach, stolen information included the last four digits of bank cards and accounts, drivers licenses, usernames and passwords, phone numbers, and addresses. Whether you are shopping in-store or online, try to use credit cards to make purchases. Using a credit card to make purchases is best practice because in the event money is stolen from the account, it is more likely to be reimbursed than debit card accounts. In addition, checking your balance and purchase history often is not only recommended but also beneficial for catching fraudulent charges. It is easier to flag and dispute pending transactions than ones that have already been completed.
Scam of A Deal
Next, if it looks too good to be true…it probably is. Phishing is a technique whereby hackers, quite possibly the ones who breached a retailer you’re fond of shopping with and snatched your email address, send amazing holiday sales and promotional deals loaded with malware. In 2018 between the days of Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday alone, successful malware attacks increased 123%. Links taking you to authentic-looking pages prompting you to take advantage of a sale that won’t last long are riddled with viruses intended to seize control of your computer and steal information. If you’re really eager to hit the buy button, take an extra second to ensure the protection of your financial information by typing in the authenticated website of the retailer you want to shop with. If there really is a sale, it is surely available for anyone to access without needing to use an email link.
Continuing with the theme of email scams, cyber-assailants are also fond of posing as charities needing your help. It is true that most charities seek donations in the last quarter of the calendar year, and while giving is admirable, make sure your money is going to help those you truly want it to benefit. Again, one of the first steps you want to take is viewing a website and social media pages that aren’t included in the email links. If it is a legitimate charity, they will have a profile in the IRS database of Nonprofit Charities which you can easily search by visiting the IRS webpage. Another way to fact check is by asking questions regarding how much of donations go to overhead costs and how much is donated to the cause itself. In addition, there are many ways to provide support that doesn’t include cash gifts. Many charities accept supplies instead of cash, so if they are only asking for money, there’s a good chance the campaign isn’t accredited.
Zero Balance Gift
Last on our lookout list: gift cards! Gift cards are reported to be the most requested holiday wish list item, with 60% of people desiring an all-expenses-paid trip to their favorite restaurant or retailer. Knowing this, cyber-hustlers have created ways to link gift card digits and pin numbers to their own bank accounts. The best way to avoid the awful feeling of giving an empty gift card to a loved one is by simply making sure the scratch or peel decal over the card hasn’t been tampered with and buying gift cards from a store associate at a register, instead of a kiosk or isle.
Arming yourself with this knowledge will not only benefit you well after the holiday season has come to an end, but will also help to ensure you and your loved ones create happy memories instead of hopeless regrets. If you are interested in more information on how to protect your home or small business from the ever-evolving tactics of cyber-criminals, visit our website at www.SecurityFirstIT.com and speak with one of our experts today!