This year, more people will start their online shopping earlier than last year. The bad guys will also be starting earlier to take advantage of the increased online traffic to trick unsuspecting shoppers.

In this season of giving, it is important to protect yourself. Here are six tips to keep your holiday season merry and bright, instead of a fright.

  1. Beware of amazing deals. Calls, texts and email about great deals are a favorite tactic for bad guys. If you’re contacted by someone you don’t know, be careful. It could be a phishing, SMiShing or social engineering attempt. These could lead to fake websites which install malware or “phish” for personal information.
  2. Keep your guard up. Watch out for things like incorrect URLs (website addresses), spelling errors and low-resolution images in emails, text messages, social media posts. And don’t click on a link or attachment shared in a suspicious message.
  3. Think twice about the secondary market. You might find a good deal on one of the online sales sites – or not. If you’re shopping for a new mobile device and someone is selling a phone for a fraction of the retail cost, it could be stolen or arrive with other concerns. Learn more about secondary market scams in this Cyber Aware blog.
  4. Don’t give your PIN to someone who calls for it. Bad guys may try to use your money to buy “gifts.” If you get a message with a one-time PIN or code that you didn’t know was coming, and then someone contacts you and asks for it – this is a red flag. Don’t share the PIN because it could be a bad guy trying to access your account or buy something using your money. Remember, AT&T will not call and ask for your PIN. Find out how to protect yourself from PIN fraud scams here.
  5. Check out the charity. The season of giving brings out scams which take advantage of our generosity. Some bad guys might pretend to be part of a charitable organization and ask for your help. Be aware. Know who your gift is going to and never share personal or account information.
  6. Don’t forget to secure new devices. After giving someone a new smartphone, tablet or other gadget, remind them to set up safety features on their new device. Learn more about setting up new devices in our blog.

Here’s a bonus tip. Make sure any old, unused email accounts are cleared out. If you have emails with old receipts or shopping information from past holidays in that account, bad guys can find it and you may not find out until it’s too late. Learn more about old email account security in our blog.      

This holiday season, stay vigilant and keep up good cybersecurity habits. Remember our Cyber Aware tips to help protect yourself. For additional online shopping suggestions, visit this FTC site.