As Americans head to the stores to do their Christmas shopping, the Internal Revenue Service and Summit Partners are issuing a warning for increased criminal activity online. Phishing and other identity theft scams are primed to take advantage of holiday shoppers who are taking their business to the e-Commerce shelves. According to the release, taxpayers should heed to the following safety steps:
Avoid Unprotected Wi-Fi
Opting to use an unprotected Wifi network puts your personal information deeply at risk. Thieves can set up their own hotspots in convenient public locations like malls in order to easily lure unsuspecting users into connecting. From there, they can access transaction data and other harmful information.
Shop Somewhere Familiar
Many scammers will create fake storefronts online so they can look like a trustworthy establishment. Use caution when going to new websites, and keep an eye out for an SSL safety certificate marking that it is secure. Your best bet is to stick with the retailers you have been able to depend on in the past, because nobody wants this kind of surprise, even on Christmas.
Change Your Passwords
Go through your different email, social media, and bank accounts online, and make sure that you have solid passwords for each channel. You are advised to use multiple, strong passwords, which do not have any connection to personal information. That means to avoid birthdays, anniversaries, and addresses. A good password should have a minimum of ten characters, with a combination of letters, numbers, special characters, and cases.
Monitor Your Devices
One crucial step this Christmas season, is to scan each of your devices for malicious software. Make sure you run security software to protect against malware and other third-party content that may be used to steal your information. This is one area where investing a little money on a trustworthy program can make a big difference. Phones, tablets, and laptops should all be vetted before using for shopping purposes, and any pop-up advertisements of “free” security scans should be avoided.
There you have it. Hall and Company, an Irvine CPA firm, does not want you to fall victim to scammers this Christmas. Use the helpful tips above to give you and your family a little peace of mind over the holidays. We’re confident that by investing a little time into sticking to these rules, you’ll significantly decrease your chances of being a victim of cyber theft.
For more information on other accounting topics, check out our blog.