Four Tips for Safer Online Shopping

Computer and mobile device users are always at risk of being hacked, scammed, and phished, but when the holidays arrive, scammers have even more opportunity to target online shoppers to trick people into giving up their personal information, including bank account or credit card data.

You probably have heard the term “phishing” used on the radio, news or in conversations with friends or colleagues. Your first thought might have gone to that five-pound bass that has alluded you for so long. But then you realize they are talking about online security.

What exactly is “phishing”?

Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

How can this impact you?

According to Norton™, 972 million consumers were victims of hacker attacks in 2017. This type of crime is increasingly common and during the holiday season, when individuals are more likely to surf and shop the web for gifts, it gives thieves the perfect opportunity to try and “lure” you into giving up valuable information.

Four tips to help you protect yourself:

 1) When in doubt, check it out.

Never click on a link in an email or text unless you’re positive it’s safe. Instead, go to the site yourself (by typing the URL into your browser or using a bookmark you’ve saved previously) and log into your account by hand.

Scammers usually try to pretend to be a site, store or service that you are familiar with. They can make an email or website look almost identical to the ones you are used to seeing. Always inspect the logos, email addresses, headers, text, and content of messages before clicking on anything. Upon close inspection, simple abnormalities such as a misspelling or extra line in a logo can tip you off.   

2) Carefully inspect and check website domain names

Hover over the link — if it doesn’t match the domain name you have seen when using the legitimate website, do not click!  For example, if you receive a special offer from greatwalmartoffers.biz instead of Walmart.com there probably is something “phishy” about it and it’s possibly a scam.

3) Make sure merchant websites are secure

A valid retailer will use a secure protocol – HTTPS – because it includes encryption and authentication that keeps the information shared between your computer and the website private, improving security against certain types of attacks. If you have any doubts about the company itself, a Google search can reveal if it’s legitimate (and it’s ratings).

To tell whether a website is secured with HTTPS, all major web browsers indicate this with an icon to the left of the site’s URL.  Google Chrome also notes “Not secure” on insecure sites.

If you are purchasing or sharing personal information, look for a locked padlock icon that shows they are using the most current security mechanisms, indicating that your shopping sessions are encrypted and secure.

Ensuring that a site has HTTPS might not be as important if you are researching or reading an informational blog that doesn’t request any of your information, but it is extremely important if you’re planning to buy something and provide your payment card information or log in with your username and password. 

4) Check out the deals!

Your parents might have told you that you don’t get anything for free – well, to some extent that is true, so always be extra careful when ads profess to give you a deal that seems extreme or too good to be true! So many stores are giving double coupon rates, Black Friday / Cyber Monday time-sensitive deals and other “sensational giveaways” that we come to expect ridiculous savings. If something looks that good and you are interested, independently research the seller’s website and check on the legitimacy of the offer. Emails, pop-up windows, social media ads or even texts that claim crazy discounts, freebies or promotions can easily lead you to fake e-commerce sites specifically designed to get your information.

Finally, always take your time and be patient when contemplating clicking on a “deal” or “promotion”. Scammers count on you making quick decisions and hurrying through the purchasing process. They often do this by wording the “phishing” so you feel pressured to react quickly. Examples are things like: only 3 items left, 2 hours left, your package has been delayed please respond, or urgent – your credit card information needs updating for your purchase to go through.

Bottom line:  always take time to check out promos or time-sensitive information requests at the service providers website/source – in the long run it may save you a great deal of trouble, time and money.  

And of course – keep your devices’ security/protection software updated.

Wishing you a safe, secure and Happy Holidays from Secur-Tek Inc!

7 Ways to Tighten Your Home Security for the Holidays

Every year at this time you’ll read stories about the increase in home burglaries while homeowners are away. Studies show that increase is not always fact. Instead, many factors affect burglaries in different communities and when they occur.

21908228_sStill, it’s smart to play it safe with home security around the holidays. After all, you may have extra valuables inside after buying all of your gifts, and you may be absent more often as you attend holiday parties or head to grandmother’s house.

According to FBI data, in 2010, there were an estimated 2.1 million burglaries in the U.S. Victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.6 billion in lost property, an average dollar loss of $2,119 each. In the Raleigh-Cary area, including Franklin, Johnston, and Wake counties, there were 628 burglaries per 100,000 residents in 2010.

Keep your holiday gifts and your home safe this season with a few simple measures:

  • Light your home. The strings of Christmas lights may bring good cheer, but they don’t keep burglars out. Mount exterior lights on your home, out of reach. These can be put on a timer or used as motion detectors. Put indoor lights on timers.
  • Burglars don’t want to spend all day trying to break in. Keep your doors and windows locked and install deadbolts on exterior doors, making it tougher to gain entry.
  • Check your doors. Your lock might be amazing, but if your door is weak, a strong kick will give a burglar easy access. Make sure your door is solid wood or has a solid wood core. You can also consider a fiberglass or metal door.
  • Trim the shrubbery. Don’t make it easy for burglars to hide behind bushes as they work to open a window. Keep the landscaping trimmed so it’s easier for a neighbor to spot the suspicious person standing outside your home.
  • Install a home alarm system. More than 90 percent of burglars say they would avoid a home with an alarm, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Effective alarms don’t just make noise, but alert emergency services. Many insurance companies offer a discount on homeowners insurance if you have an alarm.
  • Hide and lock your valuables. Once inside, a burglar doesn’t want to take too long. He or she knows to check the desk and the bedroom for important documents and jewelry. Put your important papers and expensive items in other locations and hide them well.
  • Heading out of town? Be sure to:
    • Have your mail held, or have a neighbor pick it up.
    • Schedule deliveries. Packages are at risk this time of year sitting on your front porch. Try to time deliveries so that they don’t arrive when you are out of town.
    • Leave blinds in their usual positions so it appears you are home.
    • Ask trustworthy neighbors to keep an eye on your home. Letting a few people know you are gone will help keep them on alert for something amiss.

Questions about home security? Give us a call: (919) 387-1800.

Security Tips at Christmas

Santa Holding Stack of GiftsIt’s the most wonderful time of the year with the kids jingle belling and friends coming to call. There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, presents to be buying, and lots of fun for all!

But, a word to the wise: Even though you may be like most people who are enjoying the holly jolliness of the season, don’t get so lost in the festivities that you forget some of the harsh realities of the world in which we live.

It’s unfortunate that there are folks out there who will and do take advantage of other people’s situations, including their distractions. So be mindful of what’s around you and what can possibly happen.

  • Your perfectly positioned beautifully decorated Christmas tree with all its brightly colored lights and exquisitely wrapped presents underneath can draw compliments as well as the attention of burglars. In recent years, there have been reports of burglaries during the holiday season. You don’t want to come home from an outing to find that someone has broken into your home and made off with all your gifts.
  • Speaking of Christmas decorations, if you put up outdoor decorations use an outdoor outlet in lieu of pulling cords through a slightly opened window for a power source. Burglars will find the easiest access to your home, and a cracked window is simply too hard to resist.
  • When out shopping all the attractive sales, try not to laden the backseat of your vehicle with all your goodies. This can be a big temptation to passersby.
  • If you’re an online shopper, you still need to be cautious with your packages. Be wary of deliveries left at your door. This is another invitation to passersby to casually walk up and take a peek or take the entire package. Leave instructions for the deliveries to be dropped off at a time when you or a neighbor will be home to receive them.
  • In this modern age of social media, refrain from “checking in” while you’re out and about. This alerts friends and possibly friends of friends that you’re not home. Also refrain from posting news of extravagant purchases… also a broadcast to people and an invitation for the criminal elements in your extended circle.

Even though there are realities to consider, it is the holiday season and it is a time for joy, peace, love and togetherness. Enjoy the season but be mindful at the same time.

If you’d like some professional help with securing your home and assets during the holidays and throughout the year, there are security companies that offer a variety of options, from the simple to the complex. Secur-Tek is one of those companies and a consultation is always complimentary. Contact us at 919-387-1800.

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