Threats to Watch for This Holiday Season
The holidays will soon be upon us, and even in 2020, our lives are becoming very busy as we plan (virtual) family gatherings, begin baking and preparing for celebrations, and start our holiday shopping. The hectic pace of the holidays can also present increased risks both on and offline, such as overcrowded stores and greater opportunities for thieves to target your valuables and personal information. Here are a few threats to watch out for this holiday season and tips for staying safe.
Theft of packages sitting on front porches and stoops increases as online shopping drives more home deliveries during the holidays. Many delivery services provide electronic delivery alerts, so take advantage of these services and other protections to make sure your gifts are safely delivered and received. If no one’s home during the day, consider shipping to your office or somewhere else that will keep your package off sidewalks or front doorsteps. Check your porch regularly during the holiday season if you know you are expecting a package.
Keep Travel plans offline
If you are planning to travel during the holiday season, be sure to keep your travel plans off your social media networks. Never post where you are going, when you are leaving, or when you will be back. This is prime information for a thief because they’ll know when your house will be empty. Even if you have the highest level of security on your Facebook or Twitter accounts, posting this personal information is never recommended.
The day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve are all on the top 10 busiest travel days of the year list. Throw in wintry mix weather conditions and you will find yourself facing a number of unique driving risks including difficult weather conditions, limited daylight and drivers in unfamiliar areas. Plan for extra travel time and eliminate distractions while driving to help ensure safe travels during the holidays.
December is the deadliest month for electrical fires. Before you string lights on the house or the tree, be sure to inspect the strands to make sure there aren’t any frayed cords or cracked lamps. Replace any broken lamps and throw away strands with frayed cords. This will help prevent any accidental fires.
Also, be sure to turn any holiday lights off when you go out for the evening or when you go to bed. Try using an outdoor timer or smart outlet to switch lights on and off. And it’s a good idea to review how to use a fire extinguisher and make sure yours is accessible and unexpired.
Phishing is an incredibly effective tactic used by cybercriminals that involves sending emails designed to look like they’re from someone else—like a brand you love. Generally speaking, these emails will encourage you to click on a malicious link by enticing you with a deal or exclusive price. If you click on the link, you’re redirected to a spoofed landing page of the brand they’re impersonating. Typically, the cybercriminal will try to collect login credentials or payment information like your credit card number.
If something seems off, check the “from” email address to ensure it’s legitimate, and we also recommend hovering your mouse over the URL before you click to confirm that it leads to a legitimate site and not a fake. If the content of an e-mail or social media post looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email.
Protect your identity
When shopping online, be sure to only use secure websites. Log off sites after you have completed a purchase and monitor your bank accounts and credit card activity regularly throughout the holidays for suspicious or unknown purchases. Make Sure the sites are legitimate by checking for a closed padlock on your web browser’s address bar or a URL address that begins with shttp or https. These indicate that the purchase is encrypted or secured. If you are planning to use a new website, check for online reviews to ensure the site is legitimate and safe.
Password reuse is an epidemic. Repeating the same password across your accounts is a lot like using the same key for your house, your car, your office, your mailbox, and even the locker at your gym. If someone gets a hold of any one of those keys, they now have access to everything you want to keep safe. During the holiday season, you’ll likely be creating new accounts to simplify checkouts, tracking, and returns. When you do, use random, strong passwords, so in the event of a site breach you won’t be handing a cybercriminal the key to your other accounts.
Use safe payment options such as credit cards—they are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered. Credit cards may have a limit on the monetary amount you will be responsible for paying. Never send cash through the mail or use a money-wiring service.
The holidays are meant to be enjoyed with friends and family. Take the extra steps of precaution to ensure your family’s online and offline safety so you can spend less time worrying and more time celebrating. If you can follow the steps laid out above, you’ll be way ahead of the curve in terms of ensuring your accounts stay safe and your holiday is worry-free—a time for joy, family, and lots of gifts.