The Most Wonderful Time to Get Breached [Seven Ways to Protect Yourself against Cyber Crime While doing Your Online Holiday Shopping]

Written by Amy Williams on November 25, 2019

Warren Averett Holiday Cybercrime Image

With the holidays right around the corner, decorations are going up, lights are being strung and gifts are being purchased and wrapped. But, unfortunately, it’s not only “the most wonderful time of the year” for you and yours; it’s the most lucrative time of the year for cyber criminals too.

Read more from Warren Averett about cybersecurity and how to protect yourself against cyber crime.

Cyber Statistics to Consider

During the holiday season, cybercrime becomes particularly prevalent because, with the increase in transactions, there are more opportunities for cyber criminals to exploit more individuals. The following statistics show the connection between cyber crime and the holiday season, and the correlation may surprise you.

  • In 2017, fraud attempt rates were highest on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and December 21—the cutoff date for express shipments to arrive before Christmas. (Business Wire)
  • 1 out of every 85 transactions in 2017 was a fraudulent attempt, but fraud attempts in the period from Thanksgiving Day to December 31 increased by 22 percent, while the number of overall transactions increased by 19 percent in 2017. (Business Wire)
  • 43% of holiday shopping identity theft occurs online. (Experian)
  • In 2018, 47% of shoppers said they planned to conduct most of their holiday shopping online, either with their computers (32%) or mobile devices (15%). (Experian)
  • 8% of shoppers in 2018 said they had been a victim of identity theft during a previous holiday shopping season. Of those victims, 27% said the identity theft occurred while they were shopping online during the holiday season. Another 16% said it specifically occurred while shopping online on Cyber Monday. (Experian)
  • In general, 43% of all consumers who had their identity stolen say it happened while shopping online during the holidays in 2018. (Experian)
  • Trustwave’s 2019 Global Security Report shows that cybercrime is getting more sophisticated. And discovering whether you’ve been the victim of malware or malicious software is getting harder. (Trustwave)

How Do I Protect Myself against Cyber Crime?

As our world becomes more reliant on technology, it’s unfortunately no surprise that cyber crime is increasing as well.

As you consider skipping the traffic, crowds, and lines to opt for an online shopping experience, keep in mind that, cyber thieves are actively on the prowl, looking to steal identities and commit fraud. It all boils down to good ol’ cost versus benefit.

So if you’re going to do it, make sure you’re always taking proactive steps to protect your information. Here are seven simple ways that you can do that this holiday season:

1. Always verify that you’re on a secure site.

A quick way to verify whether a site is secure or not is to look for a small padlock icon in the web address bar. It’s also very important to confirm the address begins with “https://” instead of “http://,” which indicates an unsecured connection.

2. Perform the “hover” test.

Before clicking any link or responding to any email, always hover your mouse over the sender address or the included link. Hovering over the link will cause the embedded link address to pop up. If the link address or information that pops up looks suspicious, this will allow you to stop before it’s too late. In addition, verifying that the sender address matches the website address and that the sender information (such as spelling) is correct will go a long way to protect you.

3. Use a Credit Card, not a Debit Card.

Debit cards withdraw money directly from bank accounts and don’t offer the same level of protection from fraud that credit cards do. There are laws in place that limit your liability concerning credit card fraud that aren’t in place when it comes to performing debit transactions. Utilizing a payment gateway, such as Apple Pay or PayPal, also adds another layer of protection, instead of inputting the information from your personal bank or credit card.

4. Check your bank statements frequently.

Whether you use a credit card or a debit card, make it a habit to check your bank account information frequently for accuracy. The quicker you notice strange activity, the faster you can take steps to protect yourself. Keep a record of your transactions, including confirmation information. If you notice an issue or discrepancy, take steps immediately to protect your identity. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers tips for preventing and responding to identity theft that are worth reviewing as well.

5. Don’t respond to requests for information, and don’t click links that ask for you to add or update any personal information.

A reputable retailer is not going to send you a request via email to update private information. They realize this puts your information at risk. If you receive a notification about your purchase or are asked to provide updates to your information, it’s better to pick up the phone and contact the company directly or log on to the authentic website by typing the known, secure web address of the company yourself. This will allow you to validate the request and protect your information if the request is not legitimate.

6. Elect to shop online only when on a private device or private WIFI network.

Shopping on a public device puts you at risk because it’s almost impossible to know if that device has already been compromised by spyware or malware. There’s also a chance you might forget to log out of your account, leaving your information exposed on that device.

Additionally, making sensitive transactions, viewing sensitive information or accessing your financial information on a public Wi-Fi network puts you at risk. On a public network, thieves can more easily intercept any data, including credit card numbers and passwords. For example, it would be better to log on to your financial institution’s website from your phone using cellular data instead of WIFI.

7. When in doubt, just don’t.

Finally, if you have any concerns or doubts about a website, transaction or email, just don’t. The holidays are supposed to be a time of enjoying the things that are most important to us, namely our family and friends. The last thing any of us have time for this year is to worry about our financial information being exploited or having to put out proverbial fires related to our identity. Don’t let the lure of convenience cause you to make poor decisions.

Cyber Safety this Holiday Season

These seven tips will help you to keep an eye out for cyber crime this December and hopefully, you can avoid experiencing it for yourself.

Remember, the only way to fully avoid online shopping cyber crime is to simply pull on your favorite jacket, throw a warm, colorful scarf around your neck and get behind the wheel. Trust us when we say the inconvenience of bumper to bumper traffic and a little holiday insanity is worth your peace of mind this season.

Happy Holidays to you and yours from Warren Averett’s Security, Risk and Controls team!

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