Cyber crime continues to grow, especially as an increasing number of consumers turn to online shopping to fulfill holiday wishlists. Taking a few precautions can go a long way in preventing a cyber criminal from stealing your personal or financial data and ruining your holiday season. Be proactive and vigilant by following these tips for a safer online shopping experience.
- Don’t shop on a public Wifi network unless you are using a virtual private network (VPN). Use encrypted (secure) Internet communications.
- Keep your devices and software updated with the latest security patches. Use antivirus solutions, malware and firewalls to block threats.
- Only shop at reputable sites.
- Clicking on ads on webpages or social media? Make sure it’s a legit site. Look for sites that have a verified secure connection, proper grammar and are in good working order. You wouldn’t go into a store with boarded up windows and without signage, the same rules apply online. If it looks suspicious, something’s probably not right.
- Be careful when clicking email links. Phishing scammers may pose as popular online retailers to try and gain your personal or financial information.
- Watch for typos and poor grammar and other signs of phishing emails. Think before you click, and when in doubt, do NOT click.
- Watch for suspicious activity that asks you to do something right away, offers something that sounds too good to be true or needs your personal information.
- Use safe payment methods for purchases.
- Only use payment methods that you feel secure using and understand.
- Implement strong and safe passwords by using a password manager, create complex passwords with upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters, as well as, two-factor authentication.
- Ship items to a secure location. Consider shipping to your office or another location that will keep your package from lingering on sidewalks or doorsteps.
If you believe you have been a victim of a cyber crime, let the proper federal, state and local authorities know:
- File a report with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) if you think someone is illegally using your Social Security number.
- File a report with the local police so there is an official record of the incident.
- Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Contact additional agencies depending on what information was stolen. Examples include contacting:
- the Social Security Administration if your social security number was compromised, or
- the Department of Motor Vehicles if your driver’s license or car registration has been stolen.
- Report online crime or fraud to your local United States Secret Service (USSS) Electronic Crimes Task Force or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.