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'Tis the Season of Giving - and Taking

Author:
December 13, 2023
December 13, 2023

Thieves don’t rest in the holiday season—Essential tips to protect yourself against online threats.

As we embrace the spirit of giving during the holiday season, it’s crucial to protect yourself against online threats targeting charitable intentions. Stay informed and protect your generosity with these essential tips.

Do your research.

  • Never feel pressured to give on the spot. Take the time to research the organization.
  • Visit the website of the Internal Revenue Service's website to understand which organizations qualify for tax-deductible donations.
  • Utilize trusted online resources like Charity Navigator, CharityWatch or GiveWell, to learn more about charities and how they spend donation money.
  • Legitimate charities are transparent about their mission, goals, and how they use donations.

Beware of unsolicited requests.

  • Exercise caution when receiving unsolicited donation requests via email or phone calls, especially from unfamiliar organizations.
  • Resist the pressure to give on the spot. Legitimate charities will give you time to research and consider your decision.
  • Instead, visit the organization’s official website directly or call them using a verified phone number to make your donation.

Think before you pay.

  • Exercise caution when making donations.
  • Avoid wiring money or sending cash.
  • If writing a check, ensure it is payable to the organization or pay via credit card.
  • If you donate online, verify the website’s security by looking for the "s" in https at the beginning of the URL.
  • Sites without the "s" (http vs. https) are not safe to submit payment information or other personal details. It is recommended you shop elsewhere.

Double-check the website.

  • Cybercriminals often create deceptive websites with names similar to legitimate organizations.
  • Double-check website URLs carefully to ensure you are on the correct and secure site.
  • Look out for any subtle variations that may indicate a potential scam like the spelling of the organization’s name.

Check for red flags.

  • Be cautious if the charity is reluctant to provide information about its programs or financial details.
  • Watch out for charities that pressure you to pay with unconventional methods, such as gift cards or wire transfers.

Keep personal information private.

  • Avoid providing personal information over the phone or in response to unsolicited emails.
  • Be cautious about sharing information on social media platforms, as scammers may use this information to target you.

What about safe shopping?

According to the National Retail Federation, 73% of consumers plan to use their smartphone or tablet to research or make a purchase in the holiday season. Follow these simple cybersecurity tips and practices before and while shopping online.

Keep software updated.

  • Before picking out that perfect gift, be sure that all internet-connected devices - including PCs, smartphones, and tablets are free from malware and infections.
  • Run only the most current versions of software, web browsers, and other apps.

Use secure WiFi.

  • Using free public WiFi to shop online while traveling or at your favorite coffee shop is tremendously convenient, but it is not cyber safe.
  • Don’t make purchases while connected to public WiFi; instead use a virtual private network (VPN) or your phone as a hotspot.

Lock down your login.

  • Create strong, unique passwords for your online accounts, especially those related to financial transactions.
  • Consider using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords securely.
  • Use multi-factor authentication wherever possible. 

Resist the urge.

  • Some offers are too good to be true. Buy only from trusted and established online retailers and avoid websites of retailers you’ve never heard of.

Think before you click.

  • Don’t open emails from unknown senders or click on links in suspicious messages.

Shop securely.

  • Verify that the website where you enter payment is secure. Look for https:// at the beginning of the URL, indicating a secure connection.
  • Sites without the "s" (http vs. https) are not safe to submit payment information or other personal details. It is recommended you shop elsewhere.

Secure payment methods.

  • Use a credit card or pre-paid debit card instead of a debit card linked to your bank account.
  • Credit cards often offer fraud protection, and transactions can be disputed if necessary.
  • Use a reliable, established third-party payment service, such as Google Pay, Apple Pay or PayPal.
  • Avoid wiring money or using unconventional payment methods that lack security features.

Monitor your accounts.

  • Regularly review your bank and credit card statements to identify any unauthorized transactions promptly.
  • Set up text and email alerts for your financial accounts to receive notifications on unusual activity.

As we embrace the spirit of giving, arming ourselves with knowledge becomes our greatest defense against online threats. This holiday season, always remember to “think BEFORE you click”, ensuring a safe and joyful online experience for all!

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