Excited for the holidays?  So are cybercriminals.  With $123 billion in projected holiday sales alone, cybercriminals prey on their victim’s digital security mishaps this time of year.  In 2017, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received over 300,000 online theft complaints with reported losses exceeding $1 billion. Cybercriminals are surprisingly well-organized and sophisticated in their techniques, and since very little has been done–or can be done to stop online fraudulent activity, it is up to you to practice safe online shopping habits- starting with these 5 tips.

#1:  Stop Using Your Debit Card for Online Purchases

Do not shop online with a debit bank card and do not save your bank account/routing numbers on the web.  Cybercriminals can obtain your information and completely wipe out your bank account.  Your bank may reimburse you, but you’ll be financially stranded for days or weeks before your money is returned.

Credit cards are the preferred method of payment when shopping online because federal regulations say you don’t have to pay unauthorized transactions while the credit card company investigates.  In addition to $0 liability for fraudulent purchases, most major credit cards offer free, real-time security alerts directly to your email or by text, such as SSN monitoring, online purchases, and exceeding preset purchase amount thresholds. 

Though slightly inconvenient, pre-paid cards offer the most security for online transactions as they are untraceable and can be tossed after use.

#2:  Verify URL Authenticity

Cybercriminals credit fake websites and landing pages that resemble legitimate websites to purposely gather user data such as usernames, passwords, and financial information.  Always confirm the exact spelling of the URL you’re connecting to and be aware of slightly misspelled fakes like www.micrsoft.com or www.amazan.com.

#3:  E-Commerce Websites Should Display an SSL Security Certificate

Never shop from an unsecured website (http://).  Verify the site is secure by confirming the site displays the secure lock symbol and the URL begins with https (https://)


Most secure websites will also display their hosting provider’s “Verified & Secure” badge in the website’s header or footer sections.  This badge should be clickable with detailed information about the site and hosting provider.


#4:  Sales That are Too Good to be True Usually Are

Be wary of rock-bottom prices, especially from websites that you’ve never ordered from before.  This is an easy way to attract buyers and gather personal and financial information.  When buying goods and services, companies should never ask for personal information such as your SSN number or salary range.  If you are buying from a new merchant, do your homework–does this company have any online reviews?  Do they blog and have a social media following?  Are there any complaints at the Better Business Bureau?  If you are still unsure if the site is legit, then either move on or be diligent about checking your financial statements for unauthorized activity.

#5:  Don’t Use Public Wifi

It’s convenient to grab your favorite latte, pop open your laptop, connect to the public wifi network, and start your holiday shopping without interruptions.  I understand the allure, but public wifi networks offer little to no protection against cyber fraud.  Anybody with the technical know-how can easily intercept your data including financial information.  


Stop and think before you click!  Brought to you by ACC Telecom, a voice, data, and security camera provider located in Columbia, MD 21046.

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