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Festive Season Online Security

Congrats, you conquered 2021! The holiday season is upon us and most of us will be spending our cash on festive feasts, gifts and, of course, children’s school essentials for next year. But don’t forget about your digital safety… the holidays are, unfortunately, a time you can expect higher volumes of online fraud or theft.

Online criminals are smart – and exploit our negligence to their benefit. The good news? There are several things you can do to make yourself more digitally secure and stop online fraud or theft from spoiling your time off. Brendan Kotze, Chief Development Officer at cyber security company Performanta, shares how you can be (way) more digitally savvy this festive season.

READ MORE: Cyber Threats: Be Especially Aware Of These Ones When Working Remotely

Let the bank know your whereabouts

If you plan to go away and transact in places you don’t usually hang out, consider informing your bank’s card division that you’ll be travelling. “This will help avoid false-positive reports, and your bank can triangulate any suspicious activities more accurately,” says Brendan.

Keep an eye on your bank statements

Relax, but don’t relax too much – periodically check your bank transactions for any suspicious activities.

Avoid using public WiFi for sensitive transactions

It may be convenient to log onto public WiFi – say, at a coffee shop or even a hotel. But many establishments can get a little lax when it comes to their WiFi security, making it easy for criminals to intercept WiFi data. “If you want to log into your online banking or something similarly sensitive, use an encrypted WiFi network with a password. Consider using a VPN [virtual private network]. You can also limit sensitive transactions to your mobile provider’s network,” says Brendan.

Enable device location services

Offline criminals are keen to steal your phone and other devices, explains Brendan. Many modern devices have a “find me” service, so check if yours provides one and activate it. And – like we need to remind you – always be aware of your belongings in public spaces. 

Get a separate spending card

“Consider getting a separate card with an account not directly linked to your other accounts. That way, if anything happens, they only get what’s in that card’s account. You can also check with your credit card provider about insurance and how they cover fraud. But avoid using your primary cards for holiday transactions,” says Brendan.

READ MORE: Heads Up – Meta Has Introduced A New Business Coaching Tool On WhatsApp

Mind the “app

Criminals can use apps on your phone to spy on you and steal your details. Wait – what!? Yup. “Be very critical of the apps you download, even if they look like fun, holiday-themed time-wasters,” says Brendan. “Only download apps from official app stores, and even then, read the user rating carefully.”

Watch out for holiday scams

Online criminals use a variety of scams to steal your details and money – these tactics include fake charity drives, coupons and vouchers, prizes and unbelievable specials. They often piggyback on the names of known brands. So, if you see a special offer or voucher associated with a particular brand, contact them or check their official social media feeds for confirmation.

Tip: If the secure connection lock in the browser bar looks odd, or if the site uses the HTTP protocol instead of HTTPS (this appears ahead of the web address in the browser), avoid it as well. Also worth noting: Scams will often appear via WhatsApp or social media sites – they fool people you know into sending those messages. So just because it comes from Aunty Joy, doesn’t mean it spreads joy, you know…

‘Tis the season for phishing

Phishing is when an email or text message looks like it’s from someone you know or trust. But, in actual fact, it’s an attempt to steal your details. “A bank will never ask you to confirm your log-in details,” says Brendan. “If you get a message that tries to scare you into doing something, directly contact the company it claims to be. Do not click on links in these messages. The same goes for any messages asking for money or claiming you’ve won something.”

Activate two-factor authentication

Many of us already use two-factor authentication in the form of one-time pins or response menus that appear on our phones. “It’s a very effective way to thwart online criminals. You should enable two-factor authentication (also called multi-factor authentication) on sensitive services such as online banking,” says Brendan.

Watch your social media posts

This issue occurs more with “offline” criminals, but it’s good to be aware. “If you go away on holiday and post about it on social media, it could alert criminals that your home is uninhabited. Make sure your posts are private, and try to avoid posting too much information about your activities,” he says.

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