Cybercriminals want your holiday shopping money. Here’s how to protect yourself

Former Toys ‘R’ Us CEO Jerry Storch assesses the state of retail on ‘Maria Bartiromo’s Wall Street’ As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the nation, this holiday season undeniably feels a bit different. Rather than dashing to the stores on Black Friday, a recent study conducted by our firm, […]

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the nation, this holiday season undeniably feels a bit different. Rather than dashing to the stores on Black Friday, a recent study conducted by our firm, PC Matic, found that nearly 60% of consumers are doing most of their holiday shopping online.

Even more so, a recent report released by Adobe Analytics projected that online shopping will jump by 33% this year as compared to the numbers of 2019. This increase brings projected consumer spending online between November 1st and December 31st to nearly $189 billion.

After a year of tumultuous shutdowns and government restrictions related to the global health pandemic, this uptick in online shopping is the news big box and online retailers have been waiting for. But, just as this news is being seen as a win for retailers, cybercriminals, too, are carrying out their usual scams in hopes of their biggest season yet.

Fortunately, despite the glaring threats and scams that are inevitably targeting consumers this holiday season, there’s no reason to panic or fear. Instead, to stay protected, all you have to do is remain vigilant and follow these five steps.

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1. It is very important that you set aside time to educate yourself about the current threats and scams targeting American consumers.

By knowing how to identify the latest fake shipping scam or a phishing e-mail, you’re less likely to become a cybercriminal’s latest victim.

Utilize web sites such as CISA.gov to learn more about these emerging threats and to take advantage of the resources they offer to make understanding these latest threats much easier.

2. Be cautious when you click.

Our email In Boxes are inundated with the latest deals and exclusive discounts from retailers during this time of the year. Even more so, knowing that spam is at its peak, cybercriminals will even pose as customer support from popular retailers and trick you into believing your order will be canceled if you don’t “click this link.”

Don’t fall for these tricks. Instead, visit the retailer’s website to verify these claims. If you can’t verify them, call the retailer to confirm before you take any particular action.

3. Verify that you’re visiting an authentic web site.

Today’s most common web browsers have a lock symbol next to the URL address to indicate it’s a secure connection. Verify that this symbol is there before clicking on any links and before you make any purchases. Oftentimes imitation websites are created and names are spelled slightly differently in an effort to trick consumers who may have made a typo when typing in their web destination.

4. It is absolutely imperative that you use a proactive antivirus software.

Antivirus software is your last line of defense against these cybercriminals and can prevent malicious software from being installed on your device.

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The National Institute of Standards and Technology, the NSA, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security all recommend using a security solution that utilizes application whitelisting as a method of proactive detection against malware.

5. Protecting your information with strong passwords is critical.

Not only should you be using a complex password that includes both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters, but you should also be using different passwords for your work and personal devices.

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This is very important because should a cybercriminal gain access to your password, they won’t be able to get too far.

Nothing about this year has been normal and the holidays are sure to remind us of that. However, regardless of how you’re celebrating this year, and whether you’ll be gathering in person or via a video-conferencing application, your risk for falling victim to cybercrime while shopping online can be greatly reduced by following these five steps.

Rob Cheng is CEO and founder of PC Matic.

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