MSU Denver

Generally, experts seem to believe that the average American will spend less this year — though pandemic restrictions have largely lifted, we’ve entered a new season of economic uncertainty. This means every dollar is even more important, which is why you should make sure to protect your hard-earned cash from the scammers and hackers who pop up every year. It’s like they don’t care about the naughty list! 

Keep an eye on your bank statements 

Your first line of defense against identity theft and fraud is to pay close attention to your financial records, such as bank statements and credit-card transactions. You can usually follow this data up to the minute online. Flag any suspicious activity (such as being charged for a purchase you didn’t make) and contact the institution immediately. 

Know how much items should cost 

When shopping online, have a general sense of how much the items you want to buy should cost. Not only will that make you a comparison-shopping expert, but you can get a sense of whether an online store has prices that are too good to be true. In these cases, you might pay less, but then you might get an item that doesn’t match the description or is counterfeit, or you might pay and not get any item at all. A little bit of research can help protect you. 

Make a cybersecurity list and check it twice 

This year, give yourself the gift of peace of mind by following the National Cybersecurity Alliance’s Core 4 behaviors: 

  • Protect each account with a unique, complex password that is at least 12 characters long and use a password manager. 
  • Use multifactor authentication (MFA) for any account that allows it. 
  • Turn on automatic software updates or install updates as soon as they are available. 
  • Know how to identify phishing attempts and report phishing messages to your email program, work or other authorities. 

Don’t shop on public Wi-Fi 

Public Wi-Fi and computers are convenient and sometimes necessary to use. However, public Wi-Fi is not very secure — you shouldn’t ever shop online or access important accounts (such as banking) while connected to public Wi-Fi. If you must buy a few gifts online while away from your home or work network, use a VPN (virtual private network) or mobile hotspot. 

Watch out for Grinch Bots

Last year, a record number of so-called “Grinch bots” were recorded. These are automated programs that quickly buy up popular toys, sneakers or other items and then resell the item with a huge markup to real people. Of course, buying supposedly new items on a resale market opens you up to an increased risk of fraud and counterfeit goods. The best way to defang Grinch bots is to refuse to buy from them and to buy items only from vendors you can verify.   

Don’t share more than you feel comfortable with 

While you need to share data to make a purchase online, you should be wary of any retailer that requests more information than you feel comfortable sharing. Often, you don’t need to fill out every field, and you shouldn’t if you don’t want to. If an online store requires you to share more information than you want, find another retailer. 

Keep the spirit of cybersecurity going all year long 

These are some great tips for shopping safe online for the holidays, but they are also sensible habits to follow no matter what month it is. Want to make some cybersecurity resolutions for the new year? Check out our cybersecurity basics page to learn more.