With the approaching holiday season, many of us will be making adjustments to our usual plans. This year has transformed our lifestyles, priorities, expectations, and holiday shopping and celebrations will be no exception, with much more happening virtually.
Cybercriminals and fraudsters take advantage of the increase in virtual holiday shopping and less cyber secure home environments to target potential victims. That is why it is essential as your yearend preparations move into high gear, you remain vigilant in your transactions and interactions. Here are some ways to protect yourself this holiday season:
While more holiday gifts will be bought online this year, history dictates caution. Credit bureau service Experian reports that 43% of consumers who had their identities stolen say it happened while shopping online during the holidays, so:
- Click with care—Don’t click on links in ads, unsolicited emails or pop-up windows. Also: Enter the URL of trusted shopping and financial websites into the address bar directly instead of clicking on links from other sources.
- Mind the URL—Only buy from secure and reputable sites; i.e., those that begin with an https://. Log out of each website and close the browser window when you finish shopping.
- Stick with credit—Use a credit card—rather than a debit card—for online purchases.
Gifts and giving
The holiday spirit—magnified by a desire to help others during the pandemic— increases people’s generosity, and fraudsters’ creativity:
- Donate carefully—Before you give, investigate to make sure your donations will reach the causes you wish to support. In the U.S., for example, Charity Navigator the largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities publishes guidelines to help protect against online scams and ensure your donations are reaching a valid charity. Also: Always validate any new change in payment/donation instructions by calling the recipient on a known number, especially if a change is being made at the last minute.
- Know your payee—Use mobile payment apps only with people you know—not to buy goods or services. Always confirm you have the correct username/contact information before you hit send. Funds sent to a wrong or fraudulent party are rarely recovered.
- Safeguard gift cards—Whether it’s a physical or e-gift card only purchase gift cards from reliable sources and make sure your passwords are complex and unique to each site where you shop. Scammers are using the same tactics they use to steal credit card information to steal gift card balances. Also: Never read gift card numbers to individuals who demand “payment for services” over the phone.
Holiday travel & video visits
Due to concerns with the pandemic, nearly 60% of those polled say they won’t travel to see friends and family this year, according to Travelocity.  No matter how you plan to spend the holidays with family and friends this year, here are some things to consider,:
- Take care how you go—Use trusted travel and vacation home rental services, and only communicate with/pay that vendor through the site’s payment and messaging tools. Don’t fall for deals that seem too good to be true. Domains are an inexpensive and easy way for fraudsters to steal your personal information and money.
- Avoid public Wi-Fi—Hot spots at hotels, airports, cafés and on planes are more likely to be compromised. If you have to use public Wi-Fi use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which creates an encrypted connection between your mobile devices/computers and the sites you are trying to visit.
- Secure videoconferences—Password-protect video chats with family and friends during the holidays (and year-round). When you’re not chatting or attending a video meeting, cover the camera/webcam lens to block unwanted views of your home/office.
- Safeguard your privacy—Don’t publicize upcoming travel plans or post trip/location updates on social media while you’re away. Create a social media agreement with your travel with family and travel companions to ensure they do the same, especially with children and teenagers traveling with you.
Cyberattacks—phishing (fraudulent emails), smishing (text messages) and vishing (phone calls)— will multiply during the holidays as they have during the pandemic. Here’s what you can do:
- Be wary—Treat unsolicited emails, text messages, phone calls and social media posts with care. Even while conducting business, don’t assume information requested and/or provided is genuine. Never allow an unknown individual to remotely access your devices, even if they claim to be employed by a reputable company.
- Get alerts—Set up automated notifications on your financial accounts so you know whenever a transaction takes place. Regularly monitor your various financial accounts for suspicious activity.
- Bolt the door—Make sure each of your account passwords—whether to make purchases, transfer cash or hold videoconferences—is complex and unique. Also, enable multi-factor authentication for financial, social media, shopping and other sites whenever possible. Consider using a password manager to keep track of your online accounts.
We can help
If you want to learn more about the other cyber threats and fraud scams, and how you can protect yourself, please reach out to your J.P. Morgan team member to learn more, obtain our educational tips sheets and to schedule a cyber or fraud prevention education session.