‘Tis the season for cybercrime: 5 tips to avoid you hacked this season

File photo.

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel )

Cyber criminals are more active than ever during the holiday season, and there is a reason for that. As consumers spend more money, they tend to lose, expenditure, said Richard White, D. Ph., professor for the cyber security and Information Assurance program at the University of Maryland University College.

White, who also served as the Chief Information Security Officer for the Capitol Police, provided us with five important tips to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime this season.


Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi as the network that you could use at the train station, bus terminal or your favorite coffee shop is a popular meeting place for cyber thieves, especially during the holidays.

“Be careful when using public Wi-Fi,” White told Fox News. “Never view any personal or financial information,” while you are connected with any of them.

Fake credit card readers

Fake credit card readers, or scanners, often referred to as “skimmers,” grab the data from the card of the magnetic stripe. A criminal can then use the data to create cloned cards or get access to someone’s bank account.

“This happens with increased frequency during the holidays, gas pumps, public Atms, laundromats and vending machines,” White said. “Look for thin construction, poorly painted materials, large or bulky materials, each type of exposed wiring, or something about the card reader, which looks out of the ordinary.”

He added that people should also “beware of the placement of the camera for the use of each type of card reader.” A well-placed camera can see your PIN-code.


Fake ads

“Beware of ads that are too good to be true,” White said. “They usually lead to sites that are not safe or have already been exceeded.”

People should also not clicking on links that “unknown or unexpected”, says de Wit.

Love scams

Love scams are also a big concern around the holidays, White said.

“Be wary of charity scams and requests for donations received through e-mail and phone. This time of year, there is a lot of this, unfortunately. Always contact the organization directly and see how you can help. Never take the word of someone who is blind goes out to you, via phone or e-mail.”


Baseline your finances

“Make sure you have your credit card charges and balances, special accounts, retirement accounts, mortgages, etc.” White said.

“This will be your baseline or current snapshot of your authorized charges and balances,” he added, noting the consumer can then use as a starting point for a “good” state if something suspicious is discovered.

“As soon as the holidays are over, the collection of the same [documentation] again and read it for unauthorized changes and cost.”

Simple precautions, such as not sharing passwords or pin numbers and keeping your laptop and PC updated, should also be taken.

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