Saint Louis University

Even Blue Santa knows to use secure websites when shopping online!

Taking time off for the holidays? Your adversaries are not.

Online fraud spikes during the holiday shopping season. Keep in mind that cybercriminals are very active this time of year trying to defraud people of their hard earned money and their identity.

Keep these 10 tips in mind this holiday season:

  1. Beware of free WiFi - While shopping online, banking, or completing any other sensitive data transaction, never use open WiFi connections, such as hotels, coffee shops, or malls, unless you have a VPN (virtual private network). For most people, the simplest and safest option is to stick to your cellular data connection.
  2. Shutdown Bluetooth - Shutdown wireless services, such as Bluetooth, that you are not using.
  3. Keep your screen private - If you have to shop online in crowded places, keep your screen out of the view of others to help keep your sensitive data private.
  4. Avoid the phish - Phishing emails with malicious links embedded in them, such as great holiday gift deals, donation pitches from charities, and fake delivery notices from UPS or FedEX,  spike during the holiday season. Think before you click!
  5. Check your accounts for naughty activity - A good tip is to use the same credit card for all your holiday shopping so you can detect fraudulent activity easier. Never use a debit card to shop online; if hackers get that number, they could clean out your bank account. It is easier to resolve fraudulent issues with your credit card company than your bank.
  6. Use unique usernames and passwords - It is best to have different usernames and passwords for your online accounts. That way if one is compromised, it is less likely the others will be too.
  7. Know it may be too good to be true - Websites and emails that advertise outrageous deals or deeply discounted gift cards are probably scams. Stick with e-commerce sites you know and trust and don't click on Web ads.
  8. Look for HTTPS - Never purchase merchandise from a website that does not use secure HTTPS in the web address line of the browser. The "S" means secure.
  9. Install security software patches - Ensure your computer has the most current security software patches installed. Once a security patch is made available, cyber criminals can use that information to attack devices that have not been updated.
  10. Charge with caution - Try to avoid public charging stations or using an unfamiliar computer to charge your mobile devices from a computer.

See Dell SecureWorks for more tips on secure online shopping.