Thanksgiving marks the official beginning of the holidays for most of us, but it’s not always all sugarplums and holiday cheer. Unfortunately, because of the amount of money being spent, the holidays can make people more vulnerable to fraud and security attacks. And according to Experian, 43% of holiday shopping identity theft occurs online.
That means that now is a better time than ever to brush up on your Internet safety!
Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, with Cyber Monday trailing not too far behind. There’s no doubt that you can get some incredible deals, but think twice before punching in that credit card number!
- Even though shopping with a latte in hand sounds pretty nice, perhaps consider taking it to-go so you can shop from the comfort of your home. Always avoid using public WiFi when handling sensitive information like credit card numbers.
- If you do a lot of traveling or absolutely need to shop on a shared WiFi network, consider using a VPN. A VPN, or virtual private network, helps protect your identity by hiding your IP address, masking your location, and encrypting data transfers.
- Make sure you’re buying from authorized retailers — one way to verify this is to check to make sure they have an SSL certificate. If you’re in doubt about a website’s credibility, it’s probably best to avoid it altogether, but tools like Apple Pay or Paypal can act as an additional layer of protection.
Keep Your Kids Safe
November, December, and January holidays mean your children will be spending much more time at home than usual! Plus, if you live in a cold climate, they may have snow days every once in awhile, too. While a little bit of relaxation for your kids can definitely be a good thing, it’s important to make sure they’re not wasting away their holiday break getting into trouble — online or off.
- Encourage your child to get offline by setting Internet usage limits. Maybe they’re given a certain number of hours to use for the entire week, or perhaps your rule is no phones or tablets after dark. Whatever it is, establishing boundaries will help them develop healthy technology habits.
- The holidays are a great time for family, so engaging in positive activities together can help encourage your child to avoid getting into trouble. It’s also important to encourage positivity overall! Cyberbullying is on the rise, and no one wants their child involved from either side.
- Get to know their friends. Your child will likely want to spend part of their holiday break with friends, so make sure to get to know who they hang out with! That way, if any problems do arise, you’ll feel comfortable and prepared to talk to them about it.
Use Social Media Wisely
Would you advertise to your neighbors when you’ll be out of town? Even if you like them, you probably know that’s not necessarily a wise idea. Remember to exercise the same amount of caution when posting on social media.
- Avoid posting specific dates and times that you’ll be out of town. An empty house can sometimes encourage burglars or package thieves to drop by — a holiday visit that no one wants or deserves.
- Think before you brag. If you spent tons of money at Black Friday sales, perhaps keep that to yourself until Christmastime is over. No one needs to know that you have brand new televisions, game systems, or jewelry sitting in your garage!
- Ask for permission before posting pictures of relatives, especially children, publicly online. You’ll likely see extended family this winter, and sometimes the excitement can blur our best judgement. Make sure that parents are okay with their kids being posted online before snapping photos of them.
Err on the Side of Caution
Exercising caution is important for many aspects of life, but it can be especially important when it comes to the digital world. Doing your research and fact-checking can protect your money, time, or emotional wellbeing this holiday season.
- Your email inbox will likely be flooded from now through the holidays. If you run across a deal that you can’t resist, be sure to double check that the sender and the offer are both legitimate. Get to know the signs of a phishing attack — 91% of cyber attacks begin this way, after all.
- Don’t get caught up in a scam! Seniors are often targeted for impersonation scams, so don’t ever wire your “long last grandma” money via social networking sites or a phone call. If someone is close enough to you to ask you for money, they should be comfortable handling the loan in person.
- Do your research. The holiday spirit gets many of us in the mood to be charitable, which is wonderful! Just research which charities you choose to support before writing a big check — they should align with your values and be able to clearly answer exactly where your contribution will be going.
Set Up Alerts
Staying aware of what’s being said about you online is important all year round, but especially during times when you may be a bit more vulnerable than usual. Doing this can help you look out for potential scams that are happening involving your name, look out for your child’s safety while they’re on a break from school, and give you peace of mind that your personal brand will be in tip top shape for the New Year.
Marple is an app that allows you to easily do that.
You select a search term — usually:
- Your name
- Your email address
- Your business name
- Or your child’s name
Then, we send you alerts whenever your search term pops up in search. You can then read through the results and make sure that they’re accurate. If you find one that isn’t, you can mark it negative or even report it to Google for removal. It’s one of the easiest ways to take charge of your online reputation, something that can be difficult and overwhelming to do on your own.