Congratulations! You survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday (personally, I’m holding out for “Free Cookies Friday”), but what now? You could sit back and enjoy your spoils of war, ahem, I mean shopping, or you could start a new tradition: Post-Cyber-Monday Survival Checklist. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s not up there with “Free Cookie Friday” but it is so much more necessary. To help you out in this new tradition, we have compiled a checklist of six simple steps for securing your digital self.
- Check your bank and credit card statements. This means knowing how much you spent at each site. Caution: some retailers don’t use their actual business name on the statement. When in doubt, check it out to make sure it’s legit. Go back to the site and look for a billing department you can call and ask. Also keep an eye out for those smaller charges that look a bit out of place since some scammers will use this tactic to slip under your radar, “Hmm, I must have stopped at that coffee shop that day.” You should probably be doing this every few days until the billing period is over.
- Change your passwords. Worried you might have entered your credentials on an iffy site? Even if you are confident in the sites you used to make purchases, now is still a good time to open up the password vault and go through the process of changing the important ones. You know…your bank, your email, your credit card; all that stuff that criminals would love to access.
- Perform a back-up now. This should be a part of your routine anyway, but in case it’s not, now is an excellent time to make sure you have important files and systems on a back-up drive (like those passwords you just changed). This is especially important since we are entering a phishing season, which leads us to #4 …
- Beware of the phishing emails! If you spent money on a big name site like Amazon, you might get a legit email asking you to change your payment option or some other “click the link here” type thing. It could also be a phish! Yes, they really do look that good. So convincing that even professionals can fall for them. Don’t click the link in the email. Open a new browser tab and type the site address in yourself (e.g. www.Amazon.com) then log in. This might just save your computer and your identity!
- Run a full scan on your system with your virus scan of choice. Does this guarantee your system is clean? No. But it doesn’t hurt either. A few criminals are lazy and will use out-dated stuff hoping to catch that low-hanging fruit that never checks their computer. Don’t be an easy catch. Make ‘em work for it.
- Start checking your credit report now and set-up reminders in your calendar to continue checking it periodically through the first quarter of 2015. This will help you catch if someone did steal your credentials and has used them to apply for a new credit card or loan. The faster you can stop them the easier it should be to shut them down.
We are entering the season of giving, and man, do criminals like to take. This also means an increase in holiday scams is on its way. It can be hard to say no to charities this time of year, however, be extra careful during the holidays that you are giving not only to a reputable organization, but also to an actual representative of that organization. Try giving directly to the source by going to their website (no clicking links to get there) or stopping by a local office (e.g. many fire stations have collection sites for things like “Toys for Tots”).
Another idea for your holiday shopping needs is to get something like a VISA gift card to use for online, or even in-store, shopping. This way if that card information is stolen, the worst that can happen is you lose the amount on that card instead of the contents of your bank account. You should also consider using the “check-out as a guest” option whenever shopping online to avoid creating another account with another password tied to your credit card.
Stay safe this time of year so you can enjoy time with family and friends instead of collection agencies and bank staff!