Unisys helps many of the largest brands and consumer companies around the world secure their customers’ data, but there are several things consumers can do as well to help protect their identities, privacy and money during the holidays. Here is my “seasonal seven” of consumer protections that can be taken this holiday season.
1. Don’t Click
Deals that seem too good to be true often appear during the holiday season, when we are most anxious for them. When you get an email with a link to one of those deals, a shipping tracking number or an offer for a savings app, DON’T CLICK! If you think it’s really a good deal, just close that email and go to the store’s website directly. If it’s a real deal from them, it will be there too!
2. Do Encrypt
Many folks shop from the road, whether from their phones or laptops in a coffee shop or other shared space. Whenever you shop, you should always encrypt what you type. And that’s easy in two ways: First, always use websites that start with “HTTPS” instead of the older “HTTP,” because the “S” stands for “security” and that’s a simple way to encrypt your sensitive personal and payment data before it gets sent online. Second, try using a Virtual Private Network or VPN whenever you’re computing in public. This is really easy now, by simply going into your App or Play store and downloading a top-rated VPN app. Many good ones are free to use for basic work like shopping online and will keep you much safer by encrypting everything you do.
3. Choose Credit
Credit cards have built-in theft protection from cyber scammers, usually capping your liability at $50 if your digits are stolen and misused by crooks. Debit cards, while they look alike in your wallet, take the money directly out of your bank account the moment they are used and don’t come with that built-in bank protection. While some banks will work with you, it’s always safer to use your credit card instead of your debit card online, unless you want to be left holding the bag.
4. Shop Reputability
Just like in the real world, you want to choose your online shops and product with care. If you get an ad or a come-on for a product, check to see if you can also buy it from an online store that you trust, rather than one you may never have heard of. You’ll often find not only the same deal (if it was real in the first place) but sometimes even a better price from shopping around. Remember, it’s not a cost savings if the shop is a scam!
5. Patch Religiously
If you’re the single unlucky soul that gets hit with the brand new, never-before-seen malware this holiday, there’s not much you can do about it. But if you’re not the very first victim, there is a free and simple fix that will protect you from all that hassle and loss: patching. When new attacks are reported to the technology industry, it’s very good at figuring out what happened and creating a fix – or patch – to ensure it won’t ever work again. All you have to do is apply the patch! So when your phone, operating system, software or app says it’s time for a patch, please take that moment and protect yourself.
6. Research Charities
“Giving Tuesday” kicks off America’s most charitable month of the year, a wonderful time when people give from the bottom of their hearts to those in need. It’s also the time when the charity scammers come out of the woodwork to trick you into giving to them instead of your intended groups. Unlike the old days when it was easy to spot a fuzzy misspelled email, today’s scams can look very real. So please take the extra step to research your intended charity with reputable groups like Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance to help ensure your generous gifts get to the right folks.
7. Have Hope
In these days of doom and gloom news cycles and stories of major cyberattacks almost every week, it’s easy to lose hope about our cybersecurity. But there is a light on the horizon, and it’s coming in the form of the new National Cyber Moonshot. Unisys has been working with the federal government and a group of 20 other like-minded companies for the past year to craft a nationwide plan to make the internet safe and secure. You’ll be hearing more about this moonshot in the coming months. But right now, in this holiday season, there is a real reason for hope.
We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy and cyber-safe holiday shopping and giving season!