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6 tips to avoid cybercrime this Christmas

6 tips to avoid cybercrime this Christmas
Image source: Getty Images.

Christmas is almost upon us, and that means hitting the stores to buy presents for our loved ones. With social distancing protocols and stay at home orders still in place, most of this year’s Christmas shopping is likely to be done online, leaving us open to the risk of cybercrime.

But as we prepare to spread a little Christmas cheer with the gifts we buy, cyber criminals are also preparing to defraud unsuspecting online shoppers in what is bound to be a busy shopping period.

So, how can you stay safe and avoid cybercrime when shopping online this holiday season? Here are a few great tips.

1. Check your statements regularly

Checking your accounts regularly ensures that you are able to spot any unauthorised transactions. A good rule of thumb is to check your accounts at least twice a week.

Upon spotting an unknown transaction, promptly report it to your bank or credit card company for fast action to prevent further loss.

It is also a good idea to sign up for text and email alerts about certain transactions in your account. You can, for example, choose to get alerts every time there is a transaction over a certain amount. Or you can be alerted when your balance falls below a certain level.

2. Be wary of links and attachments

Don’t open attachments or click on links in unsolicited emails informing you of ridiculously good Christmas offers.

This is a very common type of cybercrime. Sometimes, when you click on these attachments or links, malware is unleashed into your computer. The malware can change your security settings or secretly steal your passwords, bank and credit card numbers and so on.

These links might also take you to a bogus site where you’ll be asked to give your personal information. Cyber criminals can then use the information to steal your identity or log into your accounts, make changes and possibly transfer money.

These kinds of emails might even appear to be from trusted retailers. The best course action in such cases is to go to the retailer’s website directly through a different window or tab to confirm whether the offer is real.

3. Use a mix of security tools and procedures

Criminals are becoming ever more creative in their quest to steal from you, and cybercrime is on the rise. It’s a good idea to ensure that your computer and other devices you use to browse the internet are well-protected. You can do this using a mix of security tools and procedures.

First, ensure that your computer’s operating system is updated. Also, make sure you have antivirus software to detect and block viruses and other malware. Finally, use a firewall to stop hackers from accessing your computer.  

Also consider these extra precautions when using the internet to shop:

  • Don’t log into your bank account when using public computers or public Wi-Fi., for example, at a library or coffee shop.
  • Look for symbols on the site (such as the padlock on the URL bar of your browser or ‘https’) to confirm that the website you are visiting is safe and secure.
  • Choose strong user IDs and passwords that are easy for you to recall but hard for cyber criminals to guess. That means not using your birthday or your maiden name, which criminals can guess easily. The strongest passwords have a combination of letters, numbers and special characters.

4. Be wary of new retailers

There is no way to guarantee that a new online retailer is reputable. However, there are ways to avoid doing business with unreliable retailers and avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime. This entails doing your due diligence first by checking online reviews and ratings for the business.

If in doubt, it’s much safer to shop with retailers that you know and trust than new or unfamiliar businesses.

5. Watch out for scams hiding behind gift card offers

Beware of online gift card offers or sites asking for personal, financial or payment information. Only purchase gift cards from trusted sources.

6. Use a credit card to shop

A credit card offers you protection through Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act should something go wrong with your purchase, for example, if you were to fall victim to cybercrime.

Besides, you can earn rewards or cashback when you use a credit card to shop. If you plan to spend big on gifts this Christmas, it’s a great incentive to consider a cashback credit card. You’ll make a little money back for every purchase you make.

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