6 Tips to Shop Safely: Cybersecurity reminders for the holidays
The holiday season is a joyful time, but it’s often very busy too: Travel to book, meals to cook, parties to plan and, of course, gifts to buy from our loved ones’ wish lists. As we scour the internet for the best deals on the most special gifts, cyber criminals are hard at work trying to steal our identity – and separate us from our money – using fake websites, malicious links and even phony charities.
The good news: It’s relatively simple to keep yourself safe from these scams and bad actors. It just takes some due diligence and a critical eye.
Protect yourself first
Here are a few easy tips to keep in mind:
- Be aware of your vulnerabilities. We humans are the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain. Choose a reputable anti-malware software and ensure you’re updated to the latest version. Also check that your computer’s firewall is activated. When shopping online, do so from a secure network – NEVER use free Wi-Fi at public places.
- Use multi-factor authentication. Many platforms today encourage – or require – multi-factor authentication, commonly known as two-factor authentication. This is an extra step, after inputting your username and password, where the platform often sends a code to your email or your phone, which you must enter to finish signing in. It takes a couple extra moments, but the added security is well worth the time.
- Be wary of links. Scrutinize emails, instant messages and pop-up windows that entice you to click. If you get an unsolicited message, no matter how official it looks, stop and think. Rather than click the link embedded in the message or image, go directly to the company’s website via a secure browser. Be aware that the lock icon or https at the beginning of URLs does not necessarily guarantee a website is secure, it simply means that the connection between your web browser and the website server is encrypted.
- Verify the source of all communications. Examine email addresses and website URLs closely. Some cybercriminals mirror the websites of major financial institutions and legitimate ecommerce sites, often changing just one letter in the URL. For example, the legitimate “wellsfargo.com” may become the fraudulent, “wellsfaro.com.” When in doubt, navigate directly to the vendor’s website from your search bar.
- Use strong, unique passwords. When choosing a password, use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Don’t use names of family members or words found in the dictionary – try using a phrase instead, swapping out letters here and there for numbers or special characters (e.g. #, @, etc.). Cybersecurity experts also highly recommend creating a unique username and password for each account you have. Give your memory a break and use a password manager to maintain strong, secure passwords all in one place. Pro tip: Password managers can generate secure passwords for you. There are a variety of paid and free options to choose from. We recommend using a paid version, which offers more secure features.
- Sign-up for credit card charge notifications. Most credit card companies offer a message feature that will immediately notify you when a purchase has been made on your credit card. By opting for this feature you can stay on top of charges on your credit card and more quickly take action to dispute fraudulent charges if necessary.
What if you’ve had a security breach?
Despite our best efforts, security breaches can happen. If you’re a CWM client, don’t panic –give us a call. We have protocols we’ll set in motion to help lock down your accounts and share a checklist of next steps. These action items include contacting your financial institutions, such as your bank and major credit bureaus, to let them know your data has been compromised.
Finally, notify the appropriate government agency. Search “FTC identity theft” to reach the right website to report your identity breach, and forward suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re here to help
The idea of losing your assets or identity can be scary – but the steps to protect yourself are simple. And rest assured, CWM is doing everything in our power behind the scenes to keep your data safe.
To learn more about how CWM can partner with you to proactively help preserve and grow assets, give us a call at (425) 778-6160 or (800) 268-2440. We’re always happy to help at Comprehensive Wealth Management, LLC.
Schedule a complimentary, no-pressure phone call with a CWM financial advisor to learn if our breadth of consulting services and purpose-driven approach aligns with your needs.