If you are like many, this time of year brings a flurry of holiday and end-of-year preparations. For some, holiday shopping is on your list of “to do’s” for this coming weekend. For certain, there are deals to benefit from on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But where there are shoppers, there are criminals trying to take advantage of your rush and lowered awareness.

For others, the season of giving extends to non-profits and charities. Unfortunately, the emotion driving this heartfelt activity, is the very same sensation that social engineers seek to exploit.

Don’t be a victim! Read on for tips on how to keep your data and credit safe, whether you are finding that perfect gift for Aunt Sue or being philanthropic.

  • Know your online merchants & non-profit organizations: stick with who you know. If you are considering a new store or charity, do your research first. Online reviews, complaints or feedback can save you a lot of hassle in the long run.

  • Think before you click: cybercriminals embed dangerous links inside of text, URLs and images of legitimate looking emails. You wouldn’t open your front door to a stranger that suddenly appeared, why would you make your computer accessible?

  • Be cautious of familiar brands and logos: a common social engineering trick is to disguise malware in an “urgent” email which requires a response such as an order, shipment or reservation issue. STOP! Reputable companies will not send messages like this. Instead of clicking, contact the company through a trusted source – their legitimate website or a customer service number.

  • Ensure the Wi-Fi Connection Secure: Wi-Fi is everywhere, and you are busy. Scammers love to snoop on public Wi-Fi. Just because you trust the location, doesn’t mean you can trust the Wi-Fi. Keep in mind, if there is no password, the Wi-Fi is not secure. To be safe when shopping or sharing personal data, use a VPN and URLs that start with https.

  • Single credit card for on-line purchases – consider having one credit card (with a limited balance) for on-line use. The benefit - you can easily track your transactions and shut it down with one call.

  • If It’s “Too Good to be True” – PASS!: there is no such thing as something for nothing. Don’t give up personal information or financial data to receive a freebie. This just does not end well.

When reading a shipping notification, offer, or email, ask yourself:

  • Do I definitely know where this message came from?

  • Does this message look like the others that I have received in the past from this merchant or organizations?

  • Is this message confusing? Does it make sense? Are there typos?

  • When looking at the email addresses and web links, are they logical, match the web URL, or seem suspicious?

  • Is the message asking for personal information (e.g. log-in credentials, credit card numbers, etc.)?

If in doubt, close it out! Don’t proceed to click a link or download a file. Instead, go directly to the website in question and log-in via secure channel.

To read more about cybersecurity, click here. 

About Comtel
Comtel Communications, a telecom/technology consulting agency based in Richmond, Virginia since 1991, provides best-in-class solutions and unbiased counsel to a diverse group of small, medium, and enterprise-level businesses, totaling more than $18.2M in annual billings. Leveraging unique access to 350+ national and international providers, Comtel benefits its clients through competitive quotes from multiple sources, to ensure their business goals are met with current and dynamic telecom and technology services. Acting as a partner, long after contracts are signed and services are deployed, Comtel offers superb back-office support to manage upgrades, track orders, and provide training to clients.

Author: Amy Humphreys

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