My goal is to not enter a single mall this holiday season. If I can do the majority of my holiday shopping at trusted online retailers, and the rest at Costco, then I’ve done well. To me, malls seem to be places for people with lots of time on their hands to drive around looking for parking spots and then stand in line with other people who apparently all enjoy being annoyed by each other’s pushiness. But maybe that’s just me.
Keep safe and sane this holiday season:
1. Look for indications of online security. Depending on your browser, there may be an icon of a yellow lock at the top of the window, near the address bar, or at the bottom, near the taskbar. If the website is secure, the yellow lock should be closed. Some browsers use a color coding system, displaying red to indicate that a website is not secure and may potentially be infected, or green to indicate that it’s okay.
2. Update your operating system. If your computer’s operating system is out of date, it may invite trouble when heading out to the wild, wild web. Go to your security center to download the latest critical security patches.
3. Update your browser. While your operating system may be up to date, which would mean that Internet Explorer is most likely up to date as well, if you are using Chrome or Firefox, you may need to update manually. Select “About” in your browser’s toolbar to check for updates.
4. Protect your computer with antivirus software. Antivirus protection that includes a firewall will, in most cases, shield you from “drive by downloads” and other malware. Even a major online retailer with a secure website can be vulnerable to criminal hackers.
5. Beware of phantom websites. Criminals love to pull the wool over unsuspecting eyes. One technique is to use “black-hat SEO” to place fake websites at the top of organic search results. Customers who attempt to make purchases via these fake websites are unknowingly transmitting credit card numbers directly to the hackers, and it’s safe to assume they’ll never receive the products they believe they’ve purchased.
6. Check credit card statements often. I still have to search the Internet for the names of unfamiliar retailers that appear on my credit card statements with unauthorized charges. Check your statements online weekly, and refute unauthorized charges within 60 days.
Most major online retailers are already using multiple sophisticated fraud prevention procedures to protect you. Oregon-based iovation Inc. is one hot technology company offering a device reputation service that alerts businesses to suspicious behavior such as someone attempting to hijack your account or use your stolen credentials (and many others’) to steal from online businesses.
Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses credit and debit card fraud on CNBC. Disclosures