With the Holiday season just around the corner, we are all looking to buy something nice for us and the ones that we love. However, shopping online, although easy and practical, brings about certain risks when it comes to security.
The hackers and malicious software lurking behind every corner of the Internet are really looking for easy targets that do not have the basic protection. If a shopper is at least basically protected, he becomes a distant target for these hunters.
But the threat does not end there. The technology has become so advanced that you can now be tracked even if you are shopping in stores and use any kind of technology to pay for your products.
That being said, you should take a look at these 11 tips on how to protect yourself while shopping for gifts during the holiday season.
Always check for card skimmers
Skimmers are pieces of hardware installed at credit card readers that pick up information about your card once you swipe through it. This has happened several times so far, and the hacker used the information from the card to steal money and go buy things online for themselves.
The most attractive places to put a skimmer in are big shopping malls and gas stations. Therefore, beware of this dreadful thing even when you go to get some gas.
How can you notice that there is a skimmer installed? Well, you need to look for the signs on the terminal to see that something is wrong with it. First of all, see if there is glue protruding from the edges of the card reader. Second, many gas pumps use tamper seals to protect themselves, if you notice that they are broken, and then something is definitely wrong with it. If you notice these peculiarities, be sure to notify the nearby workers immediately in order to point this problem out.
Beware of the phone support scams
Big companies and banks indeed have great support line but they will never call you in order to ask for information about you and your credit card. These scammers usually track data of your purchases and call you mostly when you buy a new product to tell you that something is not right with it. After they explain the situation, they will ask for your personal information before they offer advice on how to repair your supposedly broken computer. Phone support scams often happen around holidays because people purchase new products.
The only way to protect yourself from these types of scams is to never give out your personal information and credit card number to anyone who calls you and offer support. Big companies and banks would never ask for such a sensitive type of data because they already have it in their systems if you made a purchase in their store or have an account in their bank.
Phishing as well is a form of fraud that mostly works via email. You are probably already familiar with this kind of deception and it often comes as an email to you in which you should give your personal information or go to a certain URL. Phishing emails are often hidden under the names of the big companies. However, the method of protection remains the same – simply do not give out your information because a big company will NEVER ask for your info via email. Furthermore, if you want to check out the link provided in the email, you can go to the website called urlquery.net. This website will tell you all the information about the link from the email.
Another type of phishing that affected millions of people worldwide recently is called Ransomware. Ransomware emails will often ask you to download something and when you do, it locks up your entire computer and asks you to pay ransom in order to have your computer restored. Often times, the Ransomware will present itself as a $500 (or more) solution to a virus that locked your computer.
Public Wi-Fi security problems
Consider the following situation: you walk into a restaurant and you decide to go shopping online. Your mobile data is out, so you connect to a public Wi-Fi of the restaurant that you are in. You might think that with all the passwords and security questions you are safe, but the fact is that public Wi-Fis are very easy to hack and you are likely to be a target of data theft. The next thing you find out is that you are not at all connected to the restaurant’s Wi-Fi but to some other connection that bears the name of the restaurant and is probably established by a hacker.
In order to protect yourself from the exposure on public Wi-Fis, you can secure additionally your connection with a layer of security called virtual private network (VPN). VPNs make you completely anonymous and encrypt your data wherever you connect on the internet. There are free and paid providers of the VPN, the free ones often being deceptive themselves. Therefore, providers such as LimeVPN request payments on monthly basis and the price is as low as $1.5 for this kind of service.
Apart from VPN, you can also try avoiding risky websites and prefer the ones using SSL.
Install Ad Blocking widgets
Both Chrome and Firefox have widgets made which need to be manually installed and which will block the pop-ups and other annoying ads. However, it is not the spam that really represents a problem (in fact, these ads can sometimes be very useful). It is the malicious ads that always find their way to you somehow that post a real threat because they can lure you to a malicious website and, in return, brick your computer or even install Ransomware.
The greatest thing about new Ad Blockers is that they allow you to add trusted websites to the list. This way, you will still get to see the ads that you really want to see (special offers, promotions, sales, etc.) and still be protected from the harmful ones.
Always take a detailed look at your card statements
Most of the criminals that have your card info will start out by buying something small and insignificant. This is something that usually costs less than $10 and that they think you probably would not notice. The sad truth is – not many people do. This is exactly the reason why you should check thoroughly all your card statements and see if there are peculiarities and expenses that are not yours. The thieves mostly test credit cards by buying gift cards, groceries or fuel.
If you notice that there are unusual activities, report to your bank immediately and shut down the card as soon as possible.
Use RFID card protection
RFID are newest technology cards that allow you to pay for anything witch just a tap on the terminal. They are often issued by ExpressPay, Blink or PayWave. However practical, these cards can be an easy target to people who want to scan them and this is exactly the reason to buy an adequate RFID protection.
The so-called RFID wallets provide steady protection for your RFID cards and can really harm whoever tries to steal your data. The good thing about this kind of thieves is that their scanners are short-ranged and that they need to be relatively close to the terminal in order to scan your data. If you notice someone with a big antenna and a weird device nearby, report to authorities immediately.
Use cards with EMV
EMV is a fairly new type of security layer that is added to all the cards issued recently. If you need to purchase something in the retail store, try using one of these instead of the RFID cards. EMV has significantly lowered the store theft but they haven’t eradicated it because many store terminals do not support EMV at all. Therefore, if you need to use an ordinary card, always pay with a credit card and not debit card.
Double identification protection
Whenever you try to protect your accounts, whether they are from your bank or your email, you need to consider adding an additional protection. This additional protection is often a security question that you are asked, such as „What is your mother’s maiden name? “Or „What is the name of your first pet? “.
However, they are not enough nowadays and big companies, such as Google, will provide another authentication method – phone code. Whenever you try to login to your Google account, you will be sent a code to your phone which you have to enter in the field below password in order to have access to your account. This way, even the greatest hacker on the internet will not be able to break into your account and do you harm.
On the other hand, few websites have this type of identification installed on their pages. It is a rather new technology and it also requires you giving your phone number in order to connect your account to your phone. This is exactly the reason to be even more cautious of the websites that ask for your number but are not trusted enough. Of course, you can always start with Google and that is a significant step forward. You should also check with your mobile service whether they will charge you this kind of service, because some of them do. This means that you might have to pay a small amount of money for every security code that is being sent to your phone by Google.
Watch out for the Internet of Things origin
Everything today is connected to the Internet – cameras, routers, DVRs and even refrigerators. All of these are called the Internet of Things and your home can seriously become a dystopian sci-fi disaster movie and your things can be turned against you if you do not watch out. Several cases of DDoS attacks have been documented so far through cheap routers from china.
The security measures that you can take, apart from thoroughly examining the product, include changing the default password of the things that you buy and, also, installing a VPN as an additional layer of security.
Let the software and the systems update and patch themselves
Operating Systems such as Windows 7, Windows 10, OSX and others are often updated in order to keep up with the newest technological advancements as well as the newest threats that arise both online and offline.
Apart from the OSs, you can also check if your browsers and other important pieces of software such as antiviruses and firewalls are being constantly updated. This way you will minimalize the threat that can arise not only during the Holidays but all the time. Despite the fact that they update themselves, you should always check if they have the newest updates manually, because a new update may be released only a couple of hours after your program update check schedule.