How to Stay Safe Online During the Holidays

With the holiday season just around the corner, and shopping online being the preferred method in the current climate, it seemed only fitting that DomiDocs discuss the important subject of how to keep you and your loved ones safe, especially when it comes to your time spent online.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, more than 467,361 complaints were filed last year, and the numbers only appear to be rising. Specifically, since the pandemic has plagued the U.S., a whole new slew of worldwide cybersecurity concerns have also infected the nation. Among these include an increased amount of registered fraudulent emails and text messages (data shows these increased an astonishing 700%).

One of these increased cyber concerns is the prevalent risk of cyber-criminals targeting you while you are online shopping. This is especially a concern this holiday season, as more consumers than ever will be opting to do their purchasing and perusing online to avoid large crowds and in-person retail stores.

DomiDocs understands—and supports—this cautionary shopping choice, but wants to help you stay safe while doing so. For this reason, we’ve consulted the top professionals in cybersecurity for expert advice and tips. The following list of guidelines and action steps will help you stop cyber-criminals from taking advantage of you and spoiling the happiest time of the year.

Is Your Preferred Online Store Secure?

The very first thing to look for as you sit down in front of your screen to start shopping this season is an assurance that the online store you have selected to shop with has taken measures to be secure and help keep you safe.

However, unless you know what to look for specifically, differentiating this important fact can seem daunting. Don’t fret. The following is a cheat sheet of sorts, featuring the top online shopping security features that you as a consumer should look for in order to know you are safe:

*Always look for an SSL Certification. SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer,” which simply means that the retailer protects online transactions by keeping personal data safe by encoding it. While that may sound complicated, all you really need to know is that your information (when protected by this technology) becomes undecipherable to scary cyber-criminals.

You can confirm that your chosen store has an SSL certification by looking for these indicators:

  • You will see an additional “S” tacked on to the “http://” at the beginning of a URL on any web pages where you enter a password or personal details. It is important to note that some websites only use this feature on certain portions of their site, such as the homepage, but this doesn’t mean that the entire site isn’t secure.
  • Look for icons that indicate you’re entering a secure site. The most popular icon that indicates you are safe to surf is a padlock-looking symbol. Also indicated a “green light” for online pressing is the appearance of green color in the address bar, which usually appears right before you are asked to enter a credit card number or any other sensitive information.

Click Cautiously

While you’re online shopping, switching between sites, or even checking your email, some forums may not have the above-mentioned security features. For this reason, it’s especially vital to stay vigilant. How? Think before you “click”.

This vigilance includes never ever, ever opening emails or downloading files from unknown senders. And although clicking on those tempting looking deals that pop up on your screen from time to time can be tempting, it is wise to steer away.

Especially during the holidays, those common phishing scams that we’ve all had bad dreams about come out of the woodwork (even infiltrating your inbox) to woo you into clicking on their oh-so-pretty seeming “steals”. But the problem with these alluring scams is that rather than being “a sale you don’t want to miss” or the “deal of a lifetime,” they are actually embedded with links that may direct you to a fake website built specifically to capture your sensitive, personal information. And that is a “steal” you don’t want this holiday season.

A good rule of thumb here is if that amazing holiday deal seems too good to be true, it very well may be. So keep your guard up, and continue to look for telltale signs of cybercriminal activity. One such sign is the presence of typos or certain spelling and grammar snafus that can be seen in emails or on-site URLs. This is a blaring red flag that these forums are bogus.

Extra Safety Measures

Above the regular vigilance you should maintain when online browsing, there are other proactive steps you can take to stay safe online:

  • Install the latest version of your Internet browser. This not only keeps you current with the changing times, but it also helps to avoid any security holes where malware can sneak onto your device. These cyber-criminals are smart and are constantly finding ways around security measures, so it is important to keep ahead of them by constantly updating your own protection network as well.
  • Installing an Internet security solution, such as Norton Security, and ensuring that it is always up to date is highly recommended.
  • Having a virtual private network (VPN) will also benefit you. This encrypts your online traffic, which means that even if some sneaky cybercriminal is able to eavesdrop, all they will get is an eyeful of scrambled undecipherable, encrypted data. Some popular VPNs, such as Norton Secure VPN, can even go so far as to turn public Wi-Fi into secured private connections.
  • Continuously monitor your financial information to ensure that no one has accessed your accounts. Identity theft is rampant, and you want to know right away if someone has breached your security. Many banks will even offer you help with this by allowing you to sign up for text or email alerts if any suspicious or abnormal activity is seen. Certain online security companies, like Norton and LifeLock, also have measures to help monitor your sensitive information. And if something does happen, LifeLock even specializes in providing restoration services for those falling victim to identity theft.
  • Choose strong passwords, vary them, and update them regularly.
  • Use online tools that help you stay safe. An example is Norton Safe Web, which is a free online tool that can help identify unsafe websites as you shop.

Now that you know the ways to stay safe, you are ready to go find those great holiday deals. And from us at DomiDocs, we wish you a happy—and safe—holiday season.

Author: Andy Beth Miller