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Cybersecurity and Holiday Shopping

In addition to great deals and savings, the holiday season can increase the risk of financial loss. As more and more people turn to online shopping, cybercriminals are provided with a much larger landscape to conduct fraud. Based on a report by cybersecurity company Vade, the last quarter of 2022 saw a significant increase in phishing emails. In December 2022, phishing emails jumped significantly, totaling more than 169 million, a 260% month-over-month increase.

There are several steps that both retailers and consumers can take to curb fraud and ensure staying safe while shopping.

  • Be mindful of where you shop: Before putting your personal or financial information into a website, ensure you're on the site you intend to be on. Phishing sites that seek to steal your information are incredibly common, and a keen eye that looks for unusual characters in the URL or on the web page can make all the difference. Always ensure you shop via reputable and official vendors; even on Black Friday, if a social media or website ad's deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is!
  • Don't always trust the padlock: If a site has a valid certificate (the padlock icon) and is using HTTPS, it doesn't automatically mean that your data is secure; some certificates are free, and attackers can also easily purchase e-commerce sites with valid certificates on criminal marketplaces. Always ensure you are on the legitimate website of the retailer.
  • Don't make the mistake of buying counterfeit goods: Fraudsters will use the hype of Black Friday to push fake products. Be suspicious about sales, prices, and deals that are well below the standard going price (even on Black Friday!).
  • Watch out for card skimmers: If you're brave enough to tackle the crowds and prefer to do your shopping in person, always look for indicators that an ATM may have been compromised. Card skimmers have become sophisticated over the past few years, but an out-of-place wire or suspicious-looking PIN pad are telltale signs of a poorly implemented skimmer.
  • Take some time to monitor your accounts: If you happen to find yourself the victim of fraud, constant account checkups can be helpful to catch fraudulent activity before it can do even more damage. Contact your bank or card issuer immediately if you identify any suspicious purchases.
  • Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi: While convenient, it is not secure. Public Wi-Fi does not protect sensitive data, and cybercriminals may try to access your personal and financial information. Avoid using public Wi-Fi at all costs while purchasing and placing orders. Confirm that you do not allow the "Connect automatically" Wi-Fi network preference on any of your devices.

Watch out for more helpful tips this holiday season on our Cybersecurity Center!