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Protect Your Identity Online

Published On: December 9th, 2015   Filed Under: Security, TCP/IP

Don’t Get Caught by Cyber Crime, And Live it up, at Christmas Time!

Online Holiday Shopping, cited Adobe Digital Index, increased by 14.3 percent on Black Friday compared to last year and increased by 16 percent on Cyber Monday.

Getting a great deal and signing up for email offers is good thing.  But sometimes you have to watch out for Bad Santa:  cyber thieving elves ready to steal your money, your credentials, and your online identity.

Yes, ‘tis the season to be wary, and watching out for the following scams can ensure the only headache you have after the holidays is having to figure out how to pay your legitimate bills:

Phishing emails

Nothing to do with the jam band.   Everything to do with offers that sound great– perhaps too great.   The subject or even the name of the sender may say AMAZON, or Walmart, Target or Best Buy—someone with whom you already transact cyber business.   If you listen to the siren song and follow the directions are you able to grab big savings, the message claims.  However, when you open the third-party link and enter your password, you’ve lost your credentials and possibly invite a nasty spying virus into your computer.  Look at this actual attempt at Phishing below.  You can see that “Amazon.com” is actually another site… so don’t grab the bait.

 

amazon-purchase

Phony Surveys and Contests

Forget the fact that even legitimate social media surveys and contests collect your personal information and share it for profit.  There are even nastier traps offering a purported chance to win gift cards and vouchers from well-known retailers.  All you have to do is enter the survey or contest… and, of course, “verify” your identity.

Ahem.  No.  Don’t do it.  Don’t join the people like the nearly 40,000 victims who were lured in by a phony baloney IKEA gift card page on Facebook.

Phony websites

Xbox, iPhones, hovercrafts—the most in-demand holiday products, and offered on a previously unknown website at incredibly low prices.  But remember:  any kid who knows how to right-click can steal logos and images from any company, and the number of people who can build an authentic looking website is nearly unlimited.  But the sophisticated cyber crook of today can do all that, and also manipulate data to produce at least a short term ranking in search engines.  Your pursuit of a great deal on that hovercraft takes you to a site that looks good, smells good, like a Venus flytrap.  Very soon it’s a one-sided relationship—and you’re doing all the giving.

So before doing business with a suspicious looking website, do a domain WHOIS lookup.  Beware any site with obvious spelling errors.  And if only part of a long URL on the home page includes the name of the company you know and trust—for example, http://online-transactions-amazon.com (do not visit this site!  It is FAKE FAKE FAKE) click your mouse somewhere else and get away fast.  You can always contact the Better Business Bureau, too—they were contact by a woman who purchased a handbag at:

www.officialMichaelKors.com

 

Here’s the problem.  That ain’t the MichaelKors.com site.  This is:

http://www.michaelkors.com/

So the unfortunate consumer learned there was no record of her purchase, no connection of the top website to the official Michael Kors site, and, needless to say, no handbag.  Happy Holiday!

Fake Wi-Fi connections

Public Wi-Fi.  Surfing the net via an official, albeit unsecured hotspot is dangerous enough.  Most public Wi-Fi is easy to break into for an enterprising hacker, meaning that surfing at that local café without a VPN is like unprotected sex with strangers—risky.  But nowadays the truly resourceful cyber bandit sets up their own FREE WI-FI with a fun name like, well…  like this:

 

wifi-settings

 

 

Ho!  Ho!  Ho!

Accessing Wi-Fi via a site specifically set up to target you and your identity is no longer a risk.  It’s a virtual certainty  that you are getting a dose, with your credit card and identify details suffering the consequences.   Identity theft is the gift that keeps on giving after the holidays are gone.

So get a good VPN like http://slickvpn.com.  Your data will be encrypted and your IP address masked—so those cyber crooks get (CURSES!) foiled again.

You know, in retrospect, perhaps the gift of the season is a gift of VPN.  You get  protection during the holidays and throughout the whole New Year long…