5 Security Tips to Keep You Joyful this Holiday Season!

December 22nd, 2020

Holiday season has started, which means scam season has started. Our Security Risk Manager Herb Brychta, PSP, CISSP has put together some tips to keep your season full of joy and safe from scammers.

1. Hang up on that phone call or email from a government agency threatening legal action

  • The holidays are a great time for this scam as people are busy and distracted. The threat actor might pretend to be from the IRS calling about pending legal action if you don’t pay or provide certain information. It could be someone from social security concerned about fraudulent use of your SSN. It could be someone from Medicare/ Medicaid. 
  • No federal agency, no state agency, no local government does this over the phone or email. None of them. Period. You will get a paper letter. Just hang up. DO NOT PROVIDE ANY INFORMATION TO CALLERS. The government has your address.  They won’t ask you to confirm it.
  • If after hanging up you are really concerned that it might be legit, go to the agency’s/state’s/town’s website, look up the appropriate number, and call the official published number.

2. Be careful with emails

  • Email attacks continue to evolve.  The danger with emails are 1) an attachment (a file, picture, etc.) that may contain a virus, and 2) fraudulent links.  When you open the attachment, you could be bypassing your antivirus software and installing malicious programs on your computer.  When you click the link you could be directed to a scam website that is looking to get your credit card number or your personal information.  Scammers are getting very sophisticated and using fake email addresses that appear to be from Apple, Amazon and even the government.  Legitimate businesses will not send you an email requesting that you click this link or open this attachment in order to get a refund for overbilling.  They will just credit your account.  If an email asks you to click a link or open anything, treat it as a scam.  When in doubt, look up the customer service number and call.

3. Don’t mail in gift cards for payments

  • No government agency will ask you to mail in gift cards for payment. Not the feds, not the state, not the town. In fact, no reputable creditor will ask you to mail in gift cards for payment. If a caller demands gift cards for payment, it’s a scam.

4. Avoid sending gift cards through the mail

  • Thieves target mailboxes and steal envelopes that look like greeting cards. It’s best to give gift cards in person, but if you must mail them, call the recipient a couple days after mailing and ask if they have received your gift. Old school personal checks offer a slightly higher level of security.

5. Decrease your exposure to package theft

  • Even with the advent of doorbell cameras, package theft has remained a constant. You can protect your gifts with a few simple adjustments to the delivery.  If you order something expensive, require a signature. Or place the order for an in-store pick up. Remember, cameras will tell you who took your stuff. They won’t stop the theft or get you a refund.