Did you know that consumers make more purchases online during the holidays than any other time of the year? Unfortunately, the holiday season is also when cybercrime attacks occur the most. With so many consumers’ buying online items via their computer, tablets, or mobile devices, fraudsters focus their energy on committing fraud and identity theft.


So what can you as a consumer do to protect yourself during the holidays from instances of cybercrime?


Always Use Secure Wi-Fi

Most businesses these days have free Wi-Fi for consumer’s to connect to. The bad news is that most of these public networks are unsecure and put a consumer in danger. Wi-Fi hotspots are unsafe and are prime targets for cyber criminals to tap in and steal a consumer’s personal information, such as credit card numbers or online banking information. Even in the privacy of your own home, it is important to always use a private Wi-Fi network with a secured password.


Install Anti-Virus Software

When using a computer, make sure and install a reputable anti-virus software program as well as a firewall. These solutions will protect against viruses and Trojan horses that could modify or steal valuable data on a computer.


Update Software Settings

Most default settings for computers, tablets, and smartphones have the lowest security settings, leaving room for a cyber criminal to make an attack. Check the settings for all software, especially the apps and programs that connect to the Internet such as browsers, mobile applications, and e-mail apps. Make sure to set all devices on the highest level of security.


Shop on Trusted Websites

When buying items online, be sure to take note of the website URL and how it appears. Most malicious websites will look almost identical to a legitimate site, but the URL can differ in spelling or have a different domain (ex: .net vs. .org). Also, look for the padlock symbol in the browser address. This symbol verifies that a website is secure and is encrypted.


Be Cautious of Online Deals

If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fraudsters will send out malicious e-mails that look legit, in hopes that a consumer will fall for their trap and open up attached documents that contain viruses or malware. Around the holidays, many businesses will be sending out promotional e-mails that contain coupons and flyers. Use caution when opening all e-mails and attachments and do not click on any hyperlinks in suspicious e-mails.


Protect Personal Information

Before giving out your personal information online, check the website’s privacy policy to see what information is necessary and how your information may be used. If a website does not have a clear policy listed, this could potentially be a red flag that the site sells personal information without the consent of the consumer.


Update Passwords

Whether you make online purchases on a computer, tablet, or mobile device, it is important to frequently update all passwords. Doing so will help lessen the chances of a cyber criminal being able to hack into a personal account and use personal information for their own purposes.


The battle against online fraud is challenging and is even worse around the holiday season. It is essential for consumers to learn security measures to protect themselves from becoming a victim of fraud. To reduce exposure of online fraud, consumers should follow the above recommendations to have the highest level of security enforced.