Avoid These Holiday Scams

The holiday season is a time for shopping, giving and family festivities. It’s also a time for heightened vigilance about cyber crime and fraud. Scammers and cyber thieves come up with new ways to steal your money, data and identity every year, and many of these schemes are rampant during the holidays.
Image result for holiday scamsThe holidays are a here and that means many of us will be shopping online. Do not let a cyber grinch ruin your holidays.

Here are five common holiday scams and tips on how to avoid them:

1. Online shopping scams: Online shoppers hunting for Black Friday bargains or Cyber Monday deals be warned: Fraudulent shopping websites abound, advertising unusually deep price cuts or exclusive offers meant to lure you into providing your personal or financial information or clicking on malicious links that can infect your computer.

How to stay safe: Remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it likely is. Jamie Howard, Deputy Head of Fraud Risk Management and Investigations, UBS, says it’s best to shop only with reputable retailers and only transact on secure websites with “https” in the URL. Also be sure to have the latest anti-virus software running on your device.

2. Malicious e-mail links: From bogus e-cards to malware-laden advertisements, e-mail scams are a major problem during the holidays. Phishing schemes involving package-delivery notices are especially prevalent. An e-mail, purporting to be from the U.S. Postal Service or a common carrier delivery service, instructs customers to click on a link that promises a shipping-status update but instead unleashes a virus or other malware on their device that could end up stealing usernames, passwords and other private information.

How to stay safe: Segriff advises that unless you know the sender, “never click on a link in an e-mail, and never open attachments.” Also, never send personal or financial information by e-mail. “If anyone asks you for that, it’s a red flag.”

3. Wi-Fi hotspot risks: Think twice about using the unsecured Wi-Fi in an airport, hotel or other public space to order that last-minute gift from your laptop, tablet or smartphone.Mobile devices make it convenient for us to shop almost anywhere at any time, but they also make it easier for crooks to carry out a wide variety of cyber schemes—from phishing to “evil twin” hacks that use bogus Wi-Fi signals to access your device and plunder your data.

Image result for wifi hotspots risks

How to stay safe: Keep in mind, the information you transmit or receive on unsecured wireless networks may be accessible to other users on the network. Avoid using unsecured networks in general—and never use them to send or receive personal or financial information. Consider using your own secured personal hotspot instead.

4. Gift card scams: One common scam this time of year involves a victim receiving a threatening call or voicemail saying that a family member needs help to pay for an emergency need or will soon be arrested for some kind of crime unless a fine is paid immediately. The victim is then told to make the payment with gift cards and provide the imposter with the codes to redeem and use them. “Fraud seeks to exploit one emotion or another—this one being love and trust,” Howard says. “Criminals prey on that sense of family support during the holidays.”

How to stay safe: Note that no legitimate government entity, bank, attorney or bail bondsman should ask for payment via pre-paid gift cards. If you receive one of these calls and find it suspicious, never provide your personal or financial information. The best thing to do is simple: hang up.

5. Charity fraud: Many of us open our hearts and our wallets to those in need during the holidays. But beware of fraudsters who may contact you by phone or mail seeking to exploit your good intentions. “There are criminal enterprises masquerading as charitable organizations to get people’s money,” Howard says. Such scams are likely to pick up this year in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the California wildfires.

How to stay safe: Learn to recognize the warnings signs of charity scams, and only donate to charities you know and trust. Ratings on Charity Navigator’s website can help you find trustworthy charitable organizations. The IRS also has an online tool that lets users search for legitimate charities to which donations may be tax-deductible.

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Protecting Your Information This Holiday Season

It’s the holiday season – which means it’s time to also take extra care when shopping online.

According to the National Retail Federation, 59 percent of consumers will make online purchases, up from 56.5 percent from 2016. With credit card numbers flying through cyberspace, make sure you take steps to protect your security if you plan to shop online this year.

See the source image

The following tips can keep an online Grinch from ruining your holiday cheer.

  1. Verify the company and website. One of the most important first steps you can take is to make sure you’re actually making a purchase from a legitimate business. Independent websites like Biz Rate will let you read what other consumers have to say about a business. The Better Business Bureau Online offers consumers a list of safe shopping sites. When in doubt, go with a reputable company you already know and trust.
  2. Look for signs of security. When it’s time to input your payment information, look for an “s” after “http” in the website address, ensuring your data is encrypted as it is transmitted. Also look for a tiny closed padlock in the address bar or on the lower right corner of the window. As an added security measure, update your website browser. The most recent versions of website browsers are typically the most secure.
  3. Be skeptical. We’re all looking for a bargain, but approach a deal that seems too good to be true with caution. Submitting your information to an unknown company to purchase a new computer for $25 could be risky. Paying the higher price through a trusted vendor may be the difference between a secure purchase and a compromised credit card number.
  4. Pay with plastic. Yes, financial planners often tell you not to run up your credit card bill, and that still holds, but using your credit card for online purchases offers you some protection that debit cards may not. If there are any problems, you can work with your credit card company to file and resolve a dispute. Incidentally, many credit cards offer protection or insurance on purchases. In lieu of using plastic, many retailers will allow you to use a third-party payment service, such as PayPal, which guarantees your purchase.
  5. Safeguard your Password. It’s time to get a little more sophisticated with your choice of passwords; and “abcd123” isn’t going to cut it. Today’s hackers are smart and determined. Get creative and use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. For example, if you want to make your password memorable and use a pet’s name, you could try “$p0tTheD0g” or something similar.
  6. Check it out. When your credit card statement arrives, go over every detail, making certain all of the purchases are yours. If you question a line item, call the credit card company immediately. Don’t forget to check a store’s online purchase policy as well, should you need to exchange or return an item.

Happy online shopping this year – and stay safe.

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Do You Want to Keep an Eye on Santa Tonight?

Another Christmas is just about upon us and that means Santa arrival is only hours away. With technology of course there are many ways Santa’s journey can be monitored and tracked. But what are your best options if you want to keep an eye on Santa this Christmas eve?

NORAD and Google both have online Santa Trackers this year and you can even watch him on your smartphone, via their apps.

So here’s how the two compare:

Norad Santa Tracker
AppleAndroidWindowsOnline • FREE

NORADSantaTracker

For one day only the nice folks at NORAD, (that’s the North American Aerospace Defence Command), hand over their satellites so the world can watch out for Father Christmas and his pack of reindeer.

The Norad app brings a precise GPS location of Santa and will show you exactly where the jolly fellow is so you can be sure the kids are firmly tucked up in bed.

Both the app and website are packed full of games which should help to stop the kids asking, “how much longer ’til Christmas day?”

There is a free app as well as a $2.99 version which offers additional features.

GOOGLE SANTA TRACKER
AndroidOnline • FREE

google-santa-tracker

Google are also offering the chance to watch out for Santa this year.

The big problem here is that their app is only available to Android phones but the website is full of fun for everyone.

You get treated to a fully interactive festive map and Santa’s dashboard, which features Google Maps’ technology and “sleigh engineering” to follow him on some of his stops.

There is also plenty of Christmas-themed games and videos to keep everyone entertained.

Happy Holidays to all and have an Appy Christmas!

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Cyber Monday Arrives

CyberMonday1We live in the technical age and that means with the holidays of course arrives “Black Friday” which is the day after Thanksgiving. But the shopping adventure no longer ends there. Now we have “Cyber Monday”.

“Cyber Monday” is a marketing term for the Monday after Thanksgiving and was created to help users embrace shopping online. “Cyber Monday” debuted back in 2005 when many shoppers were still a little unsure about the safety of online shopping. This concern for the most part has changed in a very big way since 2005 and online shopping is actually now the preferred way to shop for many.

Did you know that Black Friday originated 53 years ago in Philadelphia (1961) while Cyber Monday originated 44 years later (2005).

Unlike “Black Friday” it can be a little challenging to prepare for Cyber Monday. This is because many stores do not mark their items down until after Black Friday wraps up. For example this year, as a write this Amazon and  Best Buy have yet to announce their Cyber Monday deals. Amazon has promised to post it’s “Cyber Monday” deals by December 1.

Amazon has a special “Cyber Monday” page which you can check out here.

Wallmart has posted there “Cyber Monday” deals and you can check them out here.

Best Buy just like Amazon is waiting until December 1 to post their “Cyber Monday” deals and you can find them here.

Happy shopping this holiday season and if you are looking for good deals online be sure to stay safe and I recommend browsing well established retailers online for the most part and remember, just like in life, “if it sounds to good to be true… it probably is”.

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Staying Safe Shopping Online

HolidayShopping_Laptop-Squared_jpg_280x280_crop_q95As we prepare for the holiday season and with online shopping becoming more popular then ever before this is a good time to think a little bit about online security and protecting yourself while shopping online.

Here are some good tips to help you stay safe online this season.

  • Keep a Clean Machine: All the devices you use for shopping – including smartphones and tablets should have up-to-date software including security software, operating systems, programs and apps.
  • When in Doubt, Throw it Out: Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cyber criminals try compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know who it came from, it is in your best interest to delete the email.
  • Think Before you Act: Be wary of communications that offer amazing deals that sound too good to be true and implore that you to act immediately. this includes that email messages that report a “problem” with an order or payment or that ask you to view the website via a provided link.
Stay Safe Online Santa. Stay Safe.

Stay Safe Online Santa. Stay Safe.

  • Beware Wi-Fi Hotspots:  Don’t share personal or financial information over an unsecured network (a connection that does not require a password). Using the cellular connection is safer than an unsecured wireless network when on your mobile device.
  • Make Sure the Site is Legitimate: This includes a closed padlock on your web browser’s address bar or a URL address that begins with shttp or https. This indicates that the purchase is encrypted or secured.
  • Protect your Personal Information: Be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure the information requested is only what is needed to complete the transaction. Only fill out required fields on checkout forms. Check the website’s privacy policy. Make sure you understand how your information will be stored and used.
  • Use Safe Payment Options: Credit cards are generally the safest option. Avoid using your debit cards.
  • Keep a Paper Trail: Save records of your online transactions, including the product description, price, online receipt, terms of the sale, and copies of email exchanges with the seller. Read your credit card statements as soon as you get them to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized charges. If there is a discrepancy, call your bank and report it immediately.

Stay Safe Online and Enjoy the Holidays!

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FBI Issues Holiday Scam Reminder

Watch Out for Bad Santa when online.

This morning, a co-worker, who will remain nameless entered my office asking for help. It seems that after his wife was shopping online this past weekend their email account was compromised and began sending our spam to everyone in their address book. This tale of woe was hopefully resolved by having the victim simply change their email account’s password, but the fix is often not that easy.

So here is more online holiday shopping scam information.

Following on the heals of this fine blog the FBI, this week issued a series of reminders to online shoppers to beware of scams and to use their common sense.

“Scammers use many techniques to defraud consumers, from phishing e-mails offering too good to be true deals on brand-name merchandise to offering quick cash to victims who will re-ship packages to additional destinations. Previously reported scams are still being executed today,” the FBI states.

Here’s a rundown of the FBI’s advice, some are more obvious than others.

Keep a watchful eye on your personal credit information at this time of year for any possible fraudulent activity.

Be careful when receiving online correspondence from banks. Never click on a link embedded in an email from your bank. Rather, open a new webpage and manually enter the URL to avoid getting snagged in a phishing trap.

Stick mainly to reputable online sites. Those unfamiliar to you might be traps designed to swipe your personally identifiable information.

Don’t assume even top search results will take you to a reputable site. Take a close look at the URL (website address) of any site you plan to visit to see if anything looks odd, such as extra characters. Make sure the payment page of any website you use starts with https, not just http.

Don’t respond to unsolicited email (i.e., spam)

Be wary of emails claiming to contain photos in attached files… which could contain viruses.

Avoid filling out forms contained in email messages that as for personal info.

Be on the alert if you are requested to act quickly or if there is an emergency that requires your attention, as these could be scams.

Check out US-CERT’s posting on Holiday Season Phishing Scams and Malware Campaigns.

Finally, if it looks too good, it probably is.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at the West Chester Technology Blog to your, our many dedicated readers.
 
Today try to stay off of the smartphones and enjoy your family, friends, football and food!

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