Be Cyber Aware This Holiday Season

November 6, 2019

Be Cyber Safe This Season

Don’t Fall Victim to Holiday Scams!

The holidays bring busy times as people send electronic greeting cards (e-cards) and search for the perfect gifts for family and friends. Each year the number of people shopping online and sending e-cards continues to increase in order to beat the crowds and holiday shopping traffic and to spread the holiday cheer.

Online fraud is on the rise; however, consumers can protect themselves from cyber criminals by using the right security technology and common sense.

The Information and Cyber Security Office wants to remind the PNW community to take simple security steps to protect themselves so they can enjoy the holidays without cyber crime woes.

The following tips can help you stay secure and ensure your e-holiday is a happy experience.

  • Do not e-mail sensitive data: Never e-mail credit card or other financial/sensitive information. Email is like sending a postcard and other people have the potential to read it. Beware of emails requesting account or purchase information. Delete these emails. Legitimate businesses don’t solicit information through email.
  • Think before you act: Watch out for URGENT deals that arrive in unsolicited email or purport to be from friends on social networking sites.
  • Know who you’re dealing with: Recognize the sender of the e-card. If you’re unsure of the sender, do not trust the card.
  • Think before you click: When in doubt, use alternative viewing methods. Do not click any links when you are not sure of the sender. Established greeting card sites have alternative methods for retrieving the e-card.
  • Preview a link’s Web address before you click it: If the link doesn’t show an address move your mouse pointer over a link without clicking it, to see where the link goes (address should appear on the bottom bar of the Web browser).
  • Secure your computer before shopping online: Make sure your computer has the latest security updates installed. Check that your anti-virus and anti-spyware software are running properly and are receiving automatic updates from the vendor. If you haven’t already done so, install a firewall before you begin your online shopping. Upgrade your Internet browser to the most recent version available. Review the browser’s security settings. Apply the highest level of security available that still gives you the functionality you need.
  • Be wary of potential scams: If the online offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Cyber criminals will look to take advantage of the volume of online shoppers to temp users to fall prey to online scams.
  • Use temporary account authorizations: Some credit card companies offer virtual or temporary credit card numbers. This service gives you a temporary account number for online transactions. These numbers are issued for a short period of time and cannot be used after that period.
  • Don’t shop online while using an unencrypted or open wireless network: Hackers and thieves can use your open/unencrypted or a store’s wireless network to break into your computer and capture your financial information.
  • Know who you’re dealing with: Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name. Before shopping online with an unknown e-store, check out the seller and be sure to get the name and physical address of the seller in case something goes wrong.
  • Don’t give away your financial information to unsecured websites: Make sure when providing payment information, the beginning of the Web site URL address changes from http to https, indicating that the purchase is encrypted or secured.
  • Make payments securely: Pay by credit card rather than debit card. Credit/charge card transactions are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Cardholders are typically only liable for the first $50 in unauthorized charges. If online criminals obtain your debit card information they have the potential to empty your bank account.
  • Keep a record: Keep a record of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and copies of every e-mail you send or receive from the seller. Review your credit card and bank statements for unauthorized charges.
  • Review privacy policies: Review the privacy policy for the website/merchant you are visiting. Know what information the merchant is collecting about you, how it will be stored, how it will be used, and if it will be shared or sold to others.

What to do if your accounts are compromised?

  1. If you notice suspicious activity, call the bank, store, or company that owns your account. Reporting the fraud will help minimize the impact and will reduce your personal liability.
  2. Change account passwords for any online services and enable Mutlifactor Authentication. Do not do it from an infected system!
  3.  Follow recommendations from anti-virus software if it informs you of a malicious file. Make sure it is up to date!
  4. If you feel threatened in any way, report the incident to law enforcement.
  5. If you are a victim of identity theft and are in the US, visit

If contacting the service provider is not successful, you may wish to contact the following entities:

  • the Attorney General’s office at:
  • the Better Business Bureau at:
  • the Federal Trade Commission at: