Timing is key, as this time of the year requires everyone to be alert and aware of cybercrime. During the holidays, consumers make purchases online via their computers, tablets, or mobile devices more than any other time of the year. In fact, a study done by IBM discovered that mobile traffic consisted of almost 30% of online holiday shopping. Unfortunately, with the increase of mobile shopping also brings a growing amount of cybercriminals ready to commit identity theft and scams during the holidays.


To help spread security awareness this holiday season, here are some helpful tips that consumers should consider when shopping online this December:


Pay Attention to Phishing Attempts
Phishing is a method of trying to gather information using deceptive e-mails and websites. Typically, a phisher sends an e-mail disguised as a legitimate business request. The e-mail is often forged so that it appears to come from a real e-mail address used for legitimate company business, and usually includes a link to a website. However, this link is bogus, and when the victim types in sensitive information, such as cardholder data, that data is captured by a phisher. 


Shop on Reliable Websites
Be sure to take a look at the website’s trademark or logo to make sure it is valid. It is also crucial to pay attention to the website’s URL and how it appears. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (ex: .net vs. .com). 


Look for the Lock
When shopping online, check the lower-right corner of your screen for the padlock symbol and make sure the website address begins with https:// before entering your shipping, billing, or payment information. 


Beware of Certain Deals
Use caution when opening e-mail attachments and do not follow web links included in unsolicited e-mail messages. Watch out for extremely low prices on hard to get holiday items. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. 


Use Secured Wi-Fi
Many consumers are not aware of the dangers they are exposing themselves to when connecting to unsecured networks. Wi-Fi hotspots are unsafe for consumers doing online shopping and should be avoided. Doing online shopping while on a Wi-Fi hotspot can lead to exposing your cardholder information to identity thieves. 


A Norton report disclosed the potential risky behavior that consumers conduct on unsecured Wi-Fi and found: 

  • 56% of consumers access their social network accounts
  • 54% access their personal e-mail accounts
  • 29% access their personal bank account
  • 29% shop online
  • 39% do not take any precautions for protection when accessing public Wi-Fi
  • 3 out of 10 users do not log off after using a public Wi-Fi connection 


Reminders to Follow
Don’t immediately open attachments or click on links in e-mails. Take the time to validate that the e-mail was sent from a trusted source. Be familiar with your normal day-to-day processes and regular e-mail communication. Use a credit card instead of a debit card, as using a credit card allows you to dispute any possible fraudulent charges. Manage all your passwords with care and make strong passwords for your personal accounts with a variety of characters, including numbers, capitalized letters, and special characters.


The holiday season is a prime time of the year for cybercriminals to commit fraud and identity theft. The battle against fraud is challenging, and it is essential that consumers recognize all they can do to protect themselves. To reduce exposure to cyber crime, consumers should follow the above recommendations in order to have the maximum security possible.