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Published On: Fri, Dec 19th, 2014

8 Steps to Keep Cyberfraud From Ruining Your Holidays

With stories continually popping up in the news regarding yet another big box store or corporation being hacked, it seems like no one’s safe from the fraudulent ways of the nimble cybercriminal. Whether you shop at Target or Home Depot, it seems like it’s just a matter of time before trouble finds you, your data is breached, your sensitive material is stolen, and you’re nervously watching your bank statements.

Even if it hasn’t affected you personally, almost everyone knows of at least one tale of woe regarding some aspect of cybercrime that’s beleaguered a friend or family member, and while our tech-heavy world seems unlikely to ever be completely free of the threat, there are a few things you can do to try and keep your banking and other important personal information safe from virtual thieves, especially around the seemingly more vulnerable holiday shopping season. From locking your mailbox to improving your passwords, here are eight steps you can take to keep cyberfraud from ruining your holiday season.

Photo: MoD/MOD

Photo: MoD/MOD

1. Lock up Your Mailbox

While cyberfraud technically takes place via the Internet’s agile invisibility, protecting your bank statements, credit card statements, and other personal information when it’s delivered to your home in paper form is an essential part of ensuring you stay safe in cyberspace.

By simply placing a lock on your mailbox so pieces of mail can be put inside with no chance of anything being removed except with a key, you’ll make sure criminals don’t have an easy leg up on impersonating you or stealing from you via the U.S. postal system.

2. Prune Your Credit Cards

Do you really need all those credit cards you carry around? Many people sign up for more credit cards than they actually use because of special offers, discounts, and other incentives, and while these credit cards may have offered a beneficial perk at one time, all they’re currently doing is taking up space on a bank’s server, and as students of fraud prevention and detection know, information stored on a server can get hacked. Do yourself a favor and close any and all credit cards that you don’t use on a routine basis.

3. Be Wary of the Telephone (and Email, Texts, Social Media, etc.)

Keeping yourself safe online is about vigilance, which is why you should never give out private information over the telephone, email, text messaging or social media. Cybercriminals comb all mediums of data reserves to piece together a profile if they can get to your vital information, so make a practice of never giving it out.

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4. Pick up New Checks at Your Bank

One simple way to keep yourself safe is to always pick your new batch of personal or business checks up at the bank in person. By running this little errand, you make sure your routing information, name, address, and account number don’t end up in the wrong hands when the package is delivered to your home, while you’re at work.

5. Keep Your Social Security Number a Secret

Unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t ever give out your social security number, and keep all documents that contain it safe. Before discarding any mail from the government or your bank that may contain your social security number, make sure you shred the papers, so no one with any ill will has a chance to happen upon it.

6. Pay Attention

One of the best ways to protect yourself from cyberfraud is to pay attention. Go over your bank account each month and make sure you don’t have any suspicious charges. Do the same thing with your credit cards and investment documents. Occasionally run a credit report just to make sure that you are the only “you” out there who’s making decisions with your money and identity.

7. Use Strong Passwords

It can be taxing to keep your passwords strong, but getting hacked is even more frustrating. Passwords to email, social media accounts, online banking, and the like should all be lengthy and contain a mix of numbers, upper and lower case letters, and special characters.

8. Beware Unknown Emails

Phishing, the practice of attempting to get personal information from someone via email by impersonating a trustworthy source, is still a very viable and active cybercriminal tactic. To protect yourself from it, ignore any fishy emails, and contact the company or individual supposedly in need of information via a different method such as the phone. Find out if the request was genuine and necessary. If the email source is illegitimate, report it here.

Cyberfraud is something from which we all need to be diligent about protecting ourselves, regardless of the time of year, but staying free from the hassle it would cause around the holidays is especially important. While there are no guarantees you can stay 100 percent safe, by following these eight tips you’ll at least ward off most common attacks.

Guest Author: Paul Smith

On the DISPATCH: Headlines  Local  Opinion

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  1. 8 Steps To Keep Cyberfraud From Ruining Your Holidays | Eugene's Blog says:

    […] http://www.theglobaldispatch.com/8-steps-to-keep-cyberfraud-from-ruining-your-holidays-66116/ […]

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