Every year around this time, I have to reassess the Internet Christmas shopping situation.
This year is unique in that a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease has changed the way the world does business. Some people claim that we are going “back to normal”, but nothing seems to be like the “previous times”.
However, one thing has stayed the same: the internet bad guys are still busy working on new ways to steal your money.
The importance of securely backing up your files has never been more urgent. That means you have separate copies of all of your important family photos, financial documents, medical records, spreadsheets, tax returns, etc. that are kept on separate devices like external hard drives and online backup services like Carbonite.
This is the only defense you have against “ransomware” attacks, where the internet bad guys encrypt your files and hold them hostage to extort ransom. I personally know a lot of people in our city who have gotten into trouble with ransomware; it’s pretty much game over when it happens. Your files are gone and there is no way to repair them. Now, back them up while you can.
Fraudulent phone calls are growing faster and faster. I now get at least 10 calls a day on my work cell phone from scammers offering everything from free Medicare to discounted credit card rates. Some scammers try to scare me that my Windows license has expired or that the local sheriff will arrest me because my Social Security number has “expired” and I haven’t paid the renewal fee.
Other scammers claim to be from Amazon and inquire about the $ 950 iPhone I just bought. Of course I didn’t make such a purchase, I tell them. “Oh, it must have been cheaters!” They say. If I just give them my login and password they will fix things and I won’t have any more worries. An alarming number of people will think of this.
Counterfeit shopping apps are also becoming a problem as more and more people thoughtlessly shift their online purchases from semi-secure desktop and laptop computers to completely insecure “smart” phones. The only “smart” thing about these phones is that they are helping smart online crooks trick honest people into installing fake “help with shopping” apps, which is a very smart way of moving money from your account to theirs.
Watch out for scams on social networking sites like Facebook. Fake “work from home to earn extra vacation pay” scams are piling up all over the place. Be on the lookout for fake “gift cards” and fake “gift exchange” scams that infect all social networking sites as well, not just Facebook.
As always, internet security is your responsibility. Keep your computer updated and patched. Use current, updated anti-virus software. Pay attention to where you click. Research companies you want to do business with.
Never reply or click links in unsolicited email. Don’t believe any emails claiming that UPS, USPS, or FedEx are trying to deliver you a package, that you have to pay your bill, or that you owe you a refund.
Remember that your bank, eBay, PayPal, Amazon, and your Internet Service Provider will never send you an email saying “You need to visit our website and update your personal information”.
Use strong passwords and keep them secret. Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on every account you have. Use a web browser (the program you use to visit websites) that meets internet security standards and that allows you to easily access its security settings, such as: B. Firefox from Mozilla.
Do not pay for online purchases with checks, money orders, or bank cards. Use PayPal or credit cards instead, which offer fraud protection; at least these purchases are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act.
When you pay bills or send personal information by US Mail, put that mail in collection boxes instead of in the mailbox in front of your house. The lady who brings the US post to my neighborhood actually stopped once and asked me if I had seen suspicious people in the neighborhood. It was found that a gang of crooks searched local mailboxes to steal checks and bills, which can lead the crooks to accounts and cash.
Finally, keep all of your purchases in print. Play it safe and have a great internet shopping vacation.
Dave Moore, CISSP, has been repairing computers in Oklahoma since 1984. He is the founder of the non-profit Internet Safety Group Ltd. and also teaches community workshops on cyber security. He can be reached at 919-9901 or internetsafetygroup.org.