7 Tips to Stay Cybersafe during the Holidays

Keep the holidays bright by following these best practices.

Shopping online for the holidays will be more popular than ever this year as we search for gifts for loved ones in the comfort of our own homes. But with online shopping comes online security, and in the holiday rush, it can be difficult to keep security of your personal information top of mind. 

Before you look for your next online sale, follow these tips to stay cybersafe.

1.) Look out for fake online shops

Cybercriminals get better at what they do every day, and telling a legitimate site apart from a fraudulent one is not as easy as it used to be. Many fake sites pop up around the holiday season that use the same logo, style, and layout of trusted websites. However, rather than give you the amazing discounts they promise, these sites compromise your personal information instead. 

2.) Don’t get caught by charity phishing scams

Many people feel charitable this time of year and will gladly donate to a good cause. But cybercriminals know this and will try to take advantage of that good will. They may send emails from a fake charity asking for donations, or send emails that seem to come from a legitimate charity but really link to malware or a scam site.

If you want to donate to charity, do so by contacting the charity directly or going straight to their website.

3.) Watch for fake delivery emails

It’s easy to lose track of what you ordered online, and many cybercriminals will count on that confusion to send phishing emails that imitate legitimate delivery companies. They’ll send you an email that asks you to click a link to confirm delivery, but it’s really a link to download malware or go to a scam site where they’ll attempt to steal your personal information.

If you get one of these emails, always check the sender’s email address to ensure that it’s legitimate. If you still have doubts, go to the company’s website to track your package instead. 

4.) Be on the lookout for social media scams

Sometimes our Facebook friends will share a post about a huge sale from a well-known, high-quality brand. The language is typically urgent and promises huge discounts if you act now: “Just found Oakley sunglasses for $29.99!!! Get yours at www.suspiciouslink.com”

However, these are not legitimate deals. Many of these posts are from compromised social media accounts, and your friend may not even be aware of it. Don’t click the links in any of these offers because it may take you to phishing sites or malware. If you know the person who posted the “deal,” let them know their account may have been compromised. 

5.) Don’t click on pop-up ads or coupons

While you’re browsing for a product, pop-up ads often appear promising steep discounts on all your favourite products. However, many of these pop-ups contain fake coupons, take you to malicious sites, or open you up to cyberattack. 

If an ad for an amazing deal pops up while you’re browsing, don’t click on it. Just hit the “x” and continue to sites you know are legitimate.

6.) Be wary of spam texts

Our email filters are pretty good at catching spam, but our smartphones haven’t quite caught up. Many fraudsters will send mass texts promising big discounts on high-quality brands, often written in urgent language, poor grammar, and with an abundance of emojis and punctuation.

If you get a message like this, do not reply to it because you will be alerting the sender that your phone number is active. The best action is to ignore and delete, and if your phone gives you the option, mark it as junk.

7.) COVID-19 Phishing Scams

Cybercriminals often feed off of fear and vulnerability. During a pandemic, these feelings run rampant. With the arrival of COVID-19, phishing attacks have increased with emails touting results, statistics, or new information on cures.

Phishing, ransomware and spoofing are all common tactics cybercriminals have used to gain access to personal information by making it appear as though they have information to share on COVID-19. Think twice before you click on these links and if it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.

Check out more tips for keeping your information secure on the University of Alberta’s Chief Information Security Officer website.