Don’t Let Black Friday Ruin Christmas

November 22, 2014

Recent Phishing Email (src: PC Magazine)

This week is the supposed “beginning” of the Christmas shopping season. For decades, the day after Thanksgiving, now known as Black Friday, was the rush to the stores to see the Christmas decorations, pick up your own new decor for the holidays, and get a leg up on your Christmas shopping. Today, when radio stations begin playing Christmas music on November 1, decorations begin seeing the light of day in stores as early as September, and the newest addition to the shopping frenzy, Cyber Monday, it hardly seems worth the hoopla.

But a TV anchor noted two weeks ago that people were already camping out for Black Friday deals. Seriously???

There are many of us, however, who will do our Black Friday shopping in our PJs at home, online. Not to mention curling up in front of that fire for Cyber Monday’s shopping frenzy. But in today’s high-tech world, there are many ways thieves can leave the store, or your home, with more than a little of your Christmas cheer. I wanted to give you five ways to protect yourself this year.

1. When shopping online, use Private Mode in your browser in order to reduce the amount of information data mongers can collect. Better yet, use DuckDuckGo.com as your search engine either in Firefox or another browser. It is always in private mode as it collects no data at all on your searches, and is an excellent search engine.

2. Just because you can log on to wifi doesn’t mean you should. Privacy isn’t guaranteed on any open network. Only shop and take care of sensitive (read financial, personal input) work only on a secure network.

3. With the influx of massive data breaches across a wide variety of industries, no company is safe. If a company you shop at has a breach, have a new card issued ASAP. Also, if you’re going shopping at a particular retailer and they’ve recently experienced a data breach, look to do your shopping elsewhere. Maybe you won’t be able to take advantage of that exclusive Black Friday deal, but what good is that brand-new big-screen TV you got for a ‘steal’ if attackers got access to your credit card number?

4. Don’t use mobile devices to shop! First of all, rumor has it that prices are 10% higher on mobile apps than online, because retailers believe you are in a hurry for the goods. But more important than that, store apps are buggy and riddled with malicious apps to steal your information and data. Using apps on a phone, especially without protection, is a great way to let those looking for your data to get it. Even if you do use mobile apps, make sure you LOG OUT every time you finish with it (this particularly applies to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like).

5. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Phishing emails look more legitimate these days than they did in the past. And the fact that the holiday season has many legitimate great deals actually benefits cybercriminals, providing a perfect venue for phishing emails that would normally seem out of place to blend in. So don’t just immediately click a link in that ‘great deal’ email that popped up in your inbox. Verify that the sender is legitimate, check for grammatical errors and inconsistencies. If there’s something odd or out-of-place, don’t pull the purchase trigger and potentially open yourself up for identity theft or money loss.

Remember, there is NO SUCH THING AS A SAFE WEBSITE! Do your due diligence and stay safe this holiday season. Celebrate the real reason for the season, and give more of yourself than your wallet.

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