ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Illinois – Though supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, the holiday season can turn into a hunting ground for hackers, crooks and identity thieves, becoming THEIR favorite time of year.
Why is that?
While many of us still prefer the traditional in-person shopping experience, many more have made a strong shift to online shopping in recent years, even more since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic at the start. from last year.
This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of online activities of our population, also known as the digital footprint.
âWhen we shop online, we leave a trail of personal information such as our home address, date of birth, credit card information, our spending habits and even our personal preferences,â said Dr. Kathy Linderman, Chief Information Officer for the United States. G6 Army Support Command (Information Management).
While shopping online is convenient, faster, and often easier, we tend to share a lot of sensitive information that could put us at personal and financial risk.
âSome shopping websites will place ‘cookies’ on each visitor’s computer to track online activity and provide information to the cookie owner,â Linderman said. “All of this information is often used to target us with advertisements for other products or services that we may like.”
However, this information may also be used for more nefarious purposes, such as obtaining credit cards or opening credit accounts in our name, using our credit card numbers for purchases or theft of money directly from our bank accounts, she said.
As millions of Americans will be online looking for the best deals, so will online thieves.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe:
0 Check your devices and make sure they are updated with the latest security
0 Only buy from websites whose IP address begins with “https” – your data is not secure on those which only have “http”. Also, stick with authorized retailers and where possible use their app which you can easily download from Android or Apple play stores.
0 Use strong passwords for all your accounts; make it a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. It is a good practice to enable multi-factor authentication, to ensure that it is you who is trying to make a purchase. Do not use the same password on multiple sites.
0 Be careful clicking on links sent to your personal email address that advertise exclusive offers in order to avoid phishing scams.
0 Monitor all your statements and immediately report any suspicious / unauthorized activity.
0 Pay with a credit card instead of a debit card whenever possible – credit card companies offer better protection against fraud. Consider using virtual credit card numbers, which can be issued instantly and revoked after each use.
Linderman that the use of credit cards is encouraged more than debit cards because, while you can dispute illegitimate charges on either, debit cards could allow a thief to empty your bank account. Meanwhile.
Linderman discussed the importance of being aware of our own digital footprint.
âWhen we use the Internet, we leave a trail of data that lasts a long time,â she said. âOthers can use our digital footprint to gather a plethora of information about who we are, our interests, our personal preferences and our associations.
âThe information can then be used by a prospective employer, a business seeking clients, or an identity thief. The key is to remember that any information you choose to share online, or just information about your online activity, can be there for years, âshe added.
It is important to always take our time to verify that the purchases we are making are legitimate – scammers rely on us to make mistakes in order to commit malicious acts.
Linderman said it can be difficult to spot a scam.
Official-looking messages scammers send can trick people into believing they are legitimate. Often times, the sender comes across as your personal bank or as commonly used vendors like Amazon or PayPal. These messages may ask you to click a link to update your personal information, sometimes telling you that your account has been or will be locked or deleted if you do not respond immediately.
âIn an old scam that recently resurfaced, a thief will text you pretending to be someone you know, telling you he has an emergency,â Linderman said, âonly to ask you to help him with the purchase. gift cards and providing with your credit card information.
Sometimes you can spot a scam by a misspelled word or bad grammar, or find a suspicious web address by hovering over the link if you’re using a computer, or expanding the sender’s email address to view it. entirely.
The best way to avoid being a victim is to check everything.
âNever click a link in an unsolicited email or text message, and never reply to a text message from an unknown number,â Linderman said. “Instead, call the bank, seller, or other lawyer using a known number to find out if the request is legitimate.”
You can also verify that the account isn’t locked or suspended by manually typing the known web address into your browser (for example, Amazon.com) and signing in, she said.
Ultimately, your best defense against online piracy is awareness. Stay informed and act quickly when you notice something is wrong.