How to Stay Safe Online this Holiday Season.

No Phising Allowed!

Black Friday is typically the shopping day that kicks off the holiday season followed closely by Cyber Monday. Cyber criminals are busy throughout most of the year, but they also realize that the optimum time to hunt their prey, (You), is during that time of year a lot of people are shopping online.

Therefore, it is especially important to stay vigilant to the scams they like to use. They can range from SMS text messaging (smishing), Direct E-mails, to full blown fake Websites which look and act legitimate down to the tracking of your order!

These criminals have improved their game over the years so it’s important for you to stay up to date on their tactics. Every year naïve customers fall for some of these scams, losing millions of dollars. Don’t be one of them.

Here’s how you can identify them.

In SMS smishing scams it works like this, you will first get a text from what looks like an online retailer offering some special deal that just so happens to be what you’ve been looking for all year long.

More than likely, they got your number from a data breach and purchased it off of a “Dark” website where people’s information is bought and sold to the highest bidders. Their hope is they’ll get their money back by having you bite on their message so that they can capture all your personal and credit card information to make your life a living hell.

Typically, in these types of messages they will portray a product at a deep discount over what you’ve seen elsewhere which makes it so attractive! Remember the adage your parents taught you? “If it sounds too good to be true, it is.” They were right then, and they are still right today! So, don’t fall for it and don’t click on these Smishing Texts!

Here’s what to look for in a bogus website and email- If you are shopping online make sure the sites you visit have https:// on the front of their URL (website address) the (s) at the end of https:// designates it is a secure site capable of handling your personal and credit card data. (see the figure below).

It doesn’t guarantee that this site won’t be hacked though compromising your data. It means the owner has taken extra steps to protect their site. Occasionally, a cybercriminal will not do these extra steps so that is a big red flag for you.

There are other things you should also look for on websites and email to ensure it is legitimate. Like the closed padlock symbol on the website which designates it as secure, along with the proper spelling of the site. Cyber criminals will substitute letters and numbers sometimes like swapping out 0 for O.

Another tip is to make sure it shows up in a Google search. Again, cybercriminals may not do the necessary work to make sure their site is listed.

After doing this you can also perform a “Who Is” search on the domain if you are still concerned. This may show the owner and address of this site. A fake site will most likely have bogus information.

Further you can use Google Maps to cross reference addresses. If you see an open field or vacant store on the map that you searched for, that’s a big red flag!

Stay Safe!