First Column IT blog
Tip of the Week: Ward Off Holiday Scammers
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… for scammers, that is. These kinds of criminals love to take advantage of the gift-giving season. With the right tools for the job, hackers can have a field day stealing sensitive information, like credit card numbers, due to the sheer amount of stuff being purchased by consumers. It’s up to you to stay vigilant and make sure you’re not being scammed, but we have a couple of tricks you can use to stay as safe as possible.
Keep in mind that these are only preventative measures; we can’t guarantee that whoever you’re shopping through is protecting your data adequately, so if the retailer is known for suffering from big data breaches (think Target), perhaps your patronage will be best served elsewhere.
Do Your Research
Going off of the previous point, you’ll want to investigate a little bit to see how well the retailer handles their security. By this, we mean simply going online and seeing if they have been the victim of a massive data breach in previous years. If they have, see what they did about it and whether or not they learned from their mistakes. After all, it would be unfair to judge them on something that happened years ago if they have had a clean record ever since. If you’re unsure or unsettled by any data breaches, there are always other options to shop at, so don’t be too worried.
Check the Physical Vicinity of ATMs
Sometimes you might need some cash in your pocket for a purchase, and while you might think thieving is your biggest problem, ATM scamming is a serious contender. This happens when an ATM has been tampered with to send your banking credentials to a third party--in this case, a hacker. You should always check to see if the ATM has been fitted with devices on the card reader slot, as well as any kind of device attached to the back of it. For example, if the ATM has panels on the back missing, it’s a good sign that perhaps you shouldn’t use that particular machine. Furthermore, make sure that you only use ATMs in well-traveled areas with security cameras, as the chances of the ATM being tampered with are significantly lower.
Be Careful of Wireless Connections
Wireless communications are a significant weak point this holiday season, as public Wi-Fi is notorious for being much more dangerous than any protected network. This is largely in part due to the fact that these networks don’t require a sign-in, and any device can just access it unimpeded. You should keep your devices from accessing these networks automatically, as the data flowing to and from them could be under watch by scammers.
Keep an Eye On Your Devices
As always, the threat of device theft is omnipresent in locations where a lot of people gather. Pickpockets and thieves know full well how much valuable data can be found on these devices, and they might even try to use them for their own purposes. Alternatively, they could sell the devices to make a quick buck or sell the data on the black market to fund further thieving initiatives.
This holiday season be prepared for anything. For more great tips and tricks about how to stay secure with your purchases and online interactions, subscribe to First Column IT’s blog.