Winter is coming – and so is increased cyber fraud
Before December, most people don’t even want to think about Christmas: it’s drawn out, it’s time-consuming and it’s expensive. Then there’s East 17’s annual campaign of terror. And traffic everywhere. But the festive period can reach new levels of frustration if you fall victim to online fraud – more than a quarter of which occurs in the run up to Christmas. With online consumer spending at an all-time high, cybercriminals will look to capitalise on every opportunity in the coming weeks.
Vigilance and basic cyber awareness can go a long way in keeping you secure. Many people, however, are unfamiliar with the common techniques used by fraudsters, and it’s these who are most vulnerable. With increased online activity and swathes of shoppers desperately seeking a bargain, it really is the most wonderful time of year for criminals.
So, how can you avoid this nightmare before Christmas?
Well, there are several things to be aware of, which, coupled with a dash of common sense, should keep you rocking around the Christmas tree (or at least lying sedentary in front of the TV) until the new year. Check out the tips below and give yourself a fighting chance of a fraud-free winter.
Suspect special offers
From Black Friday to the January sales, prepare to be bombarded with deliciously packaged offers that sing, dance and cartwheel in their bid for your attention. But while this period is abundant with discounted goods, it’s also when cybercriminals are hunting easy targets.
As a rule of thumb, if an online deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Where possible, shop with brands and retailers that you trust, while avoiding those you’re unfamiliar with. If you are unsure about a website, keep an eye out for low-quality imagery and unusual requests for personal details. Look out for the padlock symbol and ‘https’ in the address bar too, as this indicates that a website is secure.
No matter how pushed for time you are, slow down and make an informed decision. It’s the thought that counts.
Auction with caution
Online auction sites such as eBay are breeding grounds for fraudsters, with many goods not being delivered as expected (or delivered at all, for that matter). Trending items hosted on these sites – think Yeezy trainers and Supreme hoodies – are often counterfeit, which results in many buyers possessing poor-quality replicas. To minimise risk on auction sites, you should only use vendors with solid reviews (and lots of them), while utilising secure payment methods, such as PayPal.
And remember, if in doubt, your best option is to avoid purchasing.
Understand the risks of public Wi-Fi
In winter it’s tempting to sit in a coffee shop, away from the chaos outside, and make quickfire purchases on your phone. When doing this, be aware that – though it’s unlikely – your personal details could be exposed. If you want to be extra safe, using 4G to pay is far safer, as data sent this way is encrypted.
Open with care
If there’s one gift you don’t want this Christmas – mustard socks aside – it’s malware. Unfortunately, malicious software isn’t reserved for the naughty; even the kindest are liable to attack. In fact, trusting folk are most likely of all to be duped, with malware often lurking in seemingly innocent places. As always, be vigilant when clicking links and opening documents; be sure that ecard really did come from Barbara in accounts before opening.