Online shopping has certainly become more convenient in the last few years. Could you imagine life without it? Though usually a fun and stress-free endeavor, the general bump in online activity and hustle-bustle of the holiday shopping season opens up more potential routes for cybercriminals to commit acts of fraud.
It’s always a good idea to keep your financial information and digital profile as safe as possible – you never know when or where you may be a victim of a cybercrime. But the holidays make it even that much more important. The easiest way to do this is to be aware of what could happen when you don’t expect it.
Let’s dive into a few “what if” scenarios and how they can be avoided.
What if: A retailer’s site you shop frequently gets hacked.
How to stay safe: Don’t store account information
Easy one-click checkout might be convenient when a retailer has your account info stored already. Is it safe though? Probably, yes. But it’s a better idea to make it a habit to NOT save your credit card or debit card info on any sites you use regularly. If that site gets hacked, so does your personal information. Also, use unique passwords that you don’t use anywhere else if you do need to create an account on a retailer’s site.
What if: A bogus debit card charge drained funds from your checking account without you noticing.
How to stay safe: Check your statements and monitor your account during the holiday season
It’s easy to lose track of anything during the hectic nature of the holiday season. That’s why hackers use this time to do their dirty work. Through the holiday shopping season, it is especially wise to give your bank account and credit card statements more than just a glance --you can check your transaction history through online banking or our mobile app. Hackers have been known to draw funds in small unnoticeable amounts from multiple accounts in one attack. They might also be seeing if they can access your account with a small debit to prepare for a larger debit the next time. Don’t be afraid to call us if you see any charges that are unfamiliar.
What if: You find a great deal on a retail site that you have never heard of.
How to stay safe: Beware of fake retail sites and sellers
A web site with deals too good to be true should be given some serious scrutiny. Some signs of fake sites may include those riddled with many pop-up ads or those that look less than professional. Also, make sure the site you are shopping on is secure. Check the left end of your URL bar for the locked padlock icon which means it is – sites that are secure start with “https” instead of “http.” If you’ve never heard of the retailer, check to see if they have any reviews. You could also choose to find the item somewhere else to truly avoid the risk.
What if: You get an email that says you need to update your account into.
How to stay safe: Beware of “phishing” emails
A common entry point of an attack can be through email or even text messages. During the holiday season, your email inbox (or spam folder) might be full of “great offers!” or strange account notices – phishers may try entice you to update your login info for your bank or credit card account by telling you a payment is past due, a recent payment was rejected, your account information is needed for a package delivery, etc. Avoid clicking on these links if they are suspicious. Also, Atlantic Union Bank or other financial companies will never ask you to update your personal information via email. If someone contacts you for this information and they happen to mention they are from your bank, there’s a good chance it is phishing. If you are concerned at all, call us.
What if: You are out and about and want to catch up on some online shopping.
How to stay safe: Avoid public Wi-fi when making purchases
It’s not a good idea to complete any financial transactions that involve personal information such as account numbers and login info on any unsecured public Wi-fi anywhere – like at a coffee shop, restaurant, hotel, or public transportation. Hackers may be able to intercept data on unsecured networks. It’s a better idea to wait until you get home or are on a known secure network.
What if: Certain computer operating systems were found to be vulnerable to hacking.
How to stay safe: Keep your operating systems updated
During the holiday shopping season, there’s usually a spike in cybercrimes in general. It’s best to cover your bases. It doesn’t matter if you are on a PC, Mac, or whatever mobile device or smart phone, make sure you are running the latest operating system. When you are asked or made aware of an update to your operating system that needs to be installed, it’s a good idea to take action and install it. Companies like Microsoft and Apple are working hard to make sure their systems aren’t compromised.
Don’t let hackers get the best of you, especially during the holiday season. Take the time to make yourself aware of some of their methods so you can experience worry-free online shopping.