Don’t Let Cyber Criminals Steal Your Holiday Spirit

By: Denise Koslowsky

The biggest shopping day of the year is coming.  Experts are projecting sales of more than $7.5 billion on Black Friday.  Criminals are likely to follow the money and take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers.  With the number of people turning to online shopping increasing each year, the biggest place thieves will be lurking is your inbox.

Cyber criminals often play on our fears and try to scare us out of our money.  Links and attachments delivering malware or phishing scams trying to gain your login credentials are a huge threat and they often use a hook to lure us.  Some common tactics include emails:

  • From your credit card company asking questions about a suspicious transaction with the goal of gaining your account number.
  • From your bank alerting you that your account has been frozen for security reasons in order to get private account information.
  • From Amazon that includes fake shipping invoices in the hopes that you will click on the link and their malware can make its way onto your computer system.

Don’t let the stress of the holiday season get in the way of your thinking.  Cyber criminals want you to give into your initial panic upon receiving their email and respond without thinking.  Be mindful so that you can protect yourself and your family by following these simple rules:

  • Never click on any link or email attachment that you are not expecting.
  • Keep your software up to date.
  • Make sure you turn off the option to automatically download attachments.
  • Trust your instincts.  If you don’t feel good about opening the email, don’t open it or forward it.
  • Don’t ever feel forced to make a decision on the spot, when someone has used scare tactics

Cyber Extortion is also a serious threat.  The latest scam entails a cyber criminal calling from your financial institution with a caller id that identifies them as your bank.  The thieves have sent a convincing e-mail instructing you to click on a link that allows them to hack into your bank account.  Their last step is to inform you that you will be getting an email with a 4 digit code which has actually been generated by your bank which they want you to give them and once they do…your money disappears.  If you get any calls that are similar to this, we urge you to hand up the phone right away and call your financial institution. The large national banks that we checked with state that they will never ask for confidential information over the phone, such as use names, passwords or PIN numbers send via e-mail or text.

Advocate wants you to relax and enjoy this holiday season with your family and friends!  A number of our carriers have cyber security products that provide added peace of mind.  We invite you to take a look at their offerings and give us a call with any questions you may have.  We look forward to speaking with you.

Masterpiece Cyber Protection from Chubb

Family CyberEdge from AIG

Starling Fraud and CyberFraud Protection from PURE

NY Cyber Protection from Cincinnati Insurance

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