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It's Back...Again! Shopping Season Cybersecurity Tips

Published: November 22, 2023 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.

It’s back….again! It seems like we just went through this period and it’s already time for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday shopping again! Even for those who don’t participate in the madness that is the holiday shopping season can find some great deals this time of year. In fact, if you’re like me and don’t shop for others, this is a perfect time to snatch some great deals for yourself!

Unfortunately, all the deals also mean the cyber thieves are lurking around trying to make a profit off everyone else’s holiday cheer. However, there are some things you can do to lower the risk that your payment card information is stolen.

They do exist!

Brick and mortar stores do still exist, believe it or not. And if you are so inclined to shop at them, you have a few options. One is to use a payment card. If you are given the option to use your card as debit or credit, choose credit. While you still have protections when using it as debit, the possibility of your card being re-created and used at an ATM increases when the thieves also have your PIN. If they can use it as debit, they can also drain your account and it may take some time to get the money back.

If you have the choice of using a payment card with a chip, use that over the one that only has the magnetic strip (those still exist too). It’s a little tougher to duplicate the chip and to get the information from them, should malware be lurking in the retailer’s system.

The best of the card options, however, is to use Apple Pay or Google Pay, or some other service you may have available to you that hides your card number. Many retail locations (and online businesses) have these options these days, so take advantage if you can.

Small businesses are still a risk

Participating in small business Saturday is a great way to support your small local businesses, but beware of getting a false sense of security because they are “mom and pop” stores. Cybercriminals are targeting these smaller businesses more often these day for various reasons. Use the same safeguards you would for any retail purchase.

Online shopping bonanza!

Online shopping is a great way to do your holiday shopping and many websites make it very easy for you to spend money. Using your payment card as credit is still the advice, but there are different security considerations as well.

Don’t store your payment card details in the websites or on your browser. Yes, it’s a bit annoying to type it in every time you make a purchase, but it’s more secure to do so.

Yes, we’re talking about password reuse again. This is a problem and is still catching people off guard. So, do yourself a favor and use unique passwords for each account.

While you’re thinking about passwords, if you haven’t changed your online account passwords lately for your favorite retailers, take a moment to do so. You know the advice to change your smoke detector batteries every New Year’s Day? Well, maybe you can start a good habit of changing your retail shopping passwords every year around this time. It’s recommended that passwords be changed regularly. If you can do it every quarter, even better. After all, there is some big retail event at least once a quarter (Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, etc.).

Malware runs rampant all year long.

Any more, it’s not just at this time of year when malware hiding in advertising is running amok. Beware of malicious advertising pretty much everywhere you look when online. Cyber criminals are inserting malware into ads catching unsuspecting ad clickers off guard. It is safer to go directly to the website being advertised rather than clicking an ad.

However, if you like clicking those ads, be sure to have anti-virus and anti-malware software installed and kept updated on every device used to do shopping and turn on the security features of your preferred browsers. Most of them have a malicious website detection feature. Pay attention to those warnings.

If you don’t care for the ads flashing all over the screen, consider ad-blocking software and apps to prevent accidentally clicking on them.

Have fun this season, no matter how you plan to spend it. With the above tips, you can be safer too.

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