Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. Today: Building a digital defense as you race to finish your holiday shopping.
Today, we have a red alert straight from the big guy at the North Pole – we are just two weeks away from Christmas! Are you ready?
Online shopping makes it easier and easier for procrastinators to push those deadlines into the danger zone – but we have 12 days of tips to keep you shopping safely, and get you done early!
Day 1 – Don’t go online until you make sure that your computer and your phone are fully up to date. Santa says you should make sure you aren’t susceptible to viruses and malware.
Day 2 – Put the cold freeze on using public WiFi. If you do logon to unsecured wireless networks, you can put your private info out there for any grinch to steal.
Day 3 – Find the perfect whatnot, but the seller requires that you pay using a gift card or wire transfer? Watch out – those are telltale signs of a possible fraud.
Day 4 – Mrs. Claus is a big believer in giving “experiences” over “things”… but if you are thinking of buying tickets to a concert or sporting event for that special someone, make sure you stick with a reputable seller. You might find websites or online marketplaces where people are offering good tickets cheaply, but know that plenty of counterfeiters are ready to cash in on Christmas at your expense.
Day 5 – Hot toy or blingy bauble sold out everywhere you look? You think you hit the jackpot when you find it on a never-heard-of-before website, and, bonus, it’s cheaper than expected! Sounds great, but be warned – if you stumbled upon a scammer trying to take advantage of your desperation, the only thing that is likely to show up in the mail is a bill.
Day 6 – Pay with a credit card when possible. You will likely have more protections than paying with your debit card or cash.
Day 7 – Time to put your jingle jangle on and buy some gift cards. They are popular options, but watch out for sellers who say they can get you cards below-market value. Also be wary of buying any card in a store if it looks like the security PIN on the back has been uncovered and recovered. Your best bet is to buy digital gift cards directly from the merchant online.
Day 8 – Stay off you-know-who’s naughty list by changing your passwords. Yes, they can be difficult to remember, but, no, they shouldn’t all be the same. Make sure you use long and unique passwords for the most important sites – like your email and bank account – and update the others to stronger options frequently.
Day 9 – Tis the season for giving, and it is prime time for charities to ask for money as we get close to the end of the year. Make sure that your donations are going to legitimate non-profits by doing some basic research. Also keep an eye on how much of your donation goes directly to services – and how much it is gobbled up by admin and overhead costs.
Day 10 – It’s candy cane crunch time, with only a few days left. Don’t let stress drive you to making poor choices. Fraudsters love using social engineering techniques to trick you into making quick decisions you wouldn’t otherwise make. As the saying goes, if the deal sounds too good to be real, it likely is.
Day 11 – Almost there, and scammers are going down to the wire to make their pitch sound perfect. Beware of unsolicited emails, texts, or social media posts that promise you the chance to purchase that final needed gift. Don’t click on links or attachments no matter how much you want to be done with shopping madness.
Day 12 – You made it with just a few days to spare. We have just one final tip for you before you try to wrap that pile of presents. Spend a few minutes checking your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions. If there’s anything suspicious – make sure you report it right away.
As always, if you have been victimized by a cyber fraud, be sure to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov or call your local FBI office.
Have a great holiday everyone and remember to shop safely.