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Safe Online Shopping on Cyber Monday

It’s almost Cyber Monday, so tell me something – why do you shop online? Because it’s super convenient? Or because you get better pricing? Maybe it’s because you’re allergic to hand-to-hand combat on Black Friday? I’m a huge fan of shopping online to save time, money and brain cells. But if you have bad surfing hygiene, you’re just asking identity thieves to go on a shopping spree with your money. And it’s so easy to avoid if you know how. Which you’re about to.

Thanks for joining me here on Sileo on Security, where we believe there’s no need to fear online shopping if you surf wisely. I want to share nine habits with you over the next three episodes that will keep your digital shopping cart safer than the real thing.

The first habit is just common sense. Please, stick to reputable websites with a proven track record. If you haven’t used the site in the past or if it isn’t a recognizable brand like Amazon, research before you buy! If you shop there in person, you’re probably safe online. When you buy only based on price, you generally get what you pay for. Cheap products, shipping charges, MALWARE! Also be careful about imposter websites with URLs that look almost exactly like the real one.

Next, always LOOK for the LOCK. If your browser doesn’t show a padlock in the URL bar and doesn’t start with the address HTTPS://, don’t fill out ANY forms or send ANY information via that website. The S in the address stands for secure, and everything else is just faking it! [No “S”, No $]

Third – you may get sick of hearing me say this one, but it’s so important to use strong passwords on all of your internet accounts. The easiest way for a hacker to spend your money is to crack your account because your password is your dog’s name, a word in the dictionary or something thieves can find on your MySpace profile. You don’t still have a MySpace profile?

Your One-Minute Mission today is quick and easy. Log in to the ecommerce websites you shop on most often – so for me, in order, I’d go to Amazon, Zappos, DaintyCandles.com, PayPal – you know, the usual suspects. Once you login, make your password longer and stronger than it already is. Just doing this, occasionally changing your passwords, makes thieves work a whole lot harder for those candles.

And then, as you always do, make sure that you tune in for the next episode of SOS, where I’ll give you intermediate steps to protect your online identity.

All of us at The Sileo Group wish you a happy and healthy holiday season!

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

12th Day: Holiday Security Tips All Wrapped up Together

Would you like to give the people you care about some peace on earth during this holiday season? Take a few minutes to pass on our 12 privacy tips that will help them protect their identities, social media, shopping and celebrating over the coming weeks. The more people that take the steps we’ve outlined in the 12 Days of Christmas, the safer we all become, collectively.

Have a wonderful holiday season, regardless of which tradition you celebrate. Now sing (and click) along with us one more time.  

On the 12th Day of Christmas, the experts gave to me:

12 Happy Holidays,

11 Private Emails,

10 Trusted Charities

9 Protected Packages

8 Scam Detectors

7 Fraud Alerts

6 Safe Celebrations

Fiiiiiiiiiiive Facebook Fixes

4 Pay Solutions

3 Stymied Hackers

2 Shopping Tips

And the Keys to Protect My Privacy

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

6th Day: Don’t Let the Grinch Steal Your Party!

Holiday Security Tips: On the sixth day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 6 safe celebrations

Isn’t it unfortunate that holiday parties, at home or at work, are a major source of data theft? Crafty thieves are searching for smartphones, iPads, financial documents, checkbooks, credit and debit cards, laptops, client lists, thumb drives, files, mail, purses, wallets and all other sources of identity. The data on digital devices is a veritable goldmine equal to making off with the Roast Beast.

Solution:  During parties, lock identity behind closed doors (and away from acquaintances)

Ignore the voice of denial (it sounds like Boris Karloff) insisting that your friends, family, co-workers, vendors, customers and colleagues wouldn’t possibly steal from you. Cindy Lou Who didn’t suspect the kindly “Santie Claus” either! I hear hundreds of stories every year after my speaking engagements with the same sad ending: the victim knows the thief! Don’t assume the worst about your guests; just don’t assume anything and protect yourself preventatively.

Just before a holiday gathering, centralize all sources of identity into one locked location (like an office or bedroom with a locking door).When a potential thief disappears upstairs, you don’t have to worry about it. When the high-traffic season is over, return your house to normal (unless you regularly use a cleaning service or allow outsiders into your home).

Remember that Christmas “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”  Eliminating the risk up front will help you enjoy your friends, family, and coworkers at all of those holiday parties! On the seventh day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

5th Day: Don’t Tell Facebook You Won’t Be Home for the Holidays

Holiday Security Tips: On the fifth day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 5 Facebook fixes

In general, we share too much information on social media sites. During the holidays, we are positively intoxicated with the giving spirit! Without thinking, we share our holiday travel plans, click on seemingly charitable links or post pictures of a fun night out. And when you share with friends on Facebook, you are sharing with their friends and ultimately, most of the literate world. The problem is, some of those people aren’t really friends and only want to separate you from your holiday dollars.

Solution:  Apply these five fixes to ALL of your social sharing (not just Facebook)

  1. Customize your privacy settings. Sixty percent of social network users are unaware that their default privacy settings let others into most of their personal information. Facebook does a decent job of explaining how to lock your privacy down(https://www.facebook.com/help/privacy) but you must spend at least 90 minutes going over the settings to properly protect yourself.
  2. Protect your passwords. Don’t let the bad guys take over your account and contact your friends as if they were you. Create a unique, strong, alpha-numeric-symbol password without using a dictionary word, birthdate, pet’s name or other personal identifier. Use this password only for a single site and don’t share it with anyone. Be careful of using your Facebook login for other sites, as those sites gain access to your private information.
  3. Log into Facebook only ONCE each session. If it looks like Facebook is asking you to log in a second time, skip the links and directly type www.facebook.com into your browser address bar. Phishing emails and social media posts will often send you to sites that look like Facebook but act like a data criminal. When in doubt, log out.
  4. Beware of free offers, big discounts and requests for charity (even if they come from your friends). If the offer in the post is too enticing, too good to be true or too bad to be real, don’t click. Chances are pretty good that your friend’s account has been hijacked and the hacker is serving you a warm dish of malware. If the post is out of character for that friend, email them and ask if it’s real.
  5. Don’t check in when you aren’t home and don’t post your travel plans. Based on social media feeds and locational check-in services alone (Foursquare), it is simple to map your whereabouts and signal thieves when you aren’t home. If you have to let friends know where you are during the holidays, send a group text or email.

No matter if you’re headin’ home for the holidays or off to Whoville, remember to post your pictures and tell those tales AFTER you’re safely home. On the sixth day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

4th Day: Holiday Shopping Quiz – Is Credit or Debit Smarter?

Holiday Security Tips: On the fourth day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 4 pay solutions!

True or False?

When you use a debit card, funds are more secure because they are drawn directly from your bank.

False.  While it’s true that funds are drawn directly from your bank, it actually makes it harder to get the money reimbursed while the issue is being resolved if fraud does occur.

 You can receive a reimbursement for debit card fraud up to a year later.

False.  Debit cards generally only reimburse fraudulent purchases if you catch them within 60 days.

 It is safer to use a credit card than a debit card.

True.  When you use a credit card, nothing is withdrawn from your bank account immediately. Pending transactions can take several days to clear. In addition, credit cards uniformly give you more protection than debit cards and your maximum liability is capped at $50.

All checks are created equal.

False.  If you have to pay by check, make sure you use high security checks. Security checks should include visible fibers, true watermarking, full-feature hologram (like on credit cards) and protection against multiple chemical alteration agents (not just fingernail polish remover).  This makes it much harder for identity thieves to “wash” your checks with acetone and put their own names in the “pay to” field. Also, sign your checks with a gel-based pen that cannot be easily dissolved.

If you failed this quiz, don’t worry, as long as you remember the answers when you’re shopping!  Wishing you straight A’s this holiday season! On the fifth day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

3rd Day: Stopping Hackers When You’re Shopping on Wi-Fi

Holiday Security Tips: On the third day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 3 stymied hackers!

Although you may trust the baristas at your local coffee shop to make that perfect Gingerbread Latte, you can’t always trust the person sitting next to you. Hackers can easily tap into Wi-Fi connections at public hot spots to steal your identity information, including credit card and bank account numbers. This can be especially dangerous during the holiday season when “hotspot sniffers” come out of the woodwork using free monitoring apps like Firesheep.

Solution: Stop shopping online using free Wi-Fi hotspots.

If you must shop online while out in public, take the following precautions:

  • Enable tethering on your smart phone. Tethering connects your computer to the Internet using a Smartphone (or Internet-enabled cell phone). It increases security because the mobile transmission between your cell phone and the cell tower is encrypted (scrambled) and hard to intercept. Therefore, when you use your Smartphone to surf the web, you are accessing a protected connection that probably can’t be sniffed. The connection might be slightly slower than a traditional Wi-Fi hotspot, but it is also much safer. Simply call your wireless provider and ask them if your Smartphone has tethering capabilities. You shouldn’t have to pay more than about $15 per month to put this solution into effect.
  • Make sure that you shop on reputable websites, not just those with the cheapest prices. Your only risk isn’t your internet connection, but the number of scamming sites that pop up during the holidays.
  • Before you hit the Buy button, make sure you’re using a secured site. Look for “https” (not just “http”) in the URL address bar.  Some browsers and websites also change the color of the URL bar (e.g., to green) and add a padlock symbol to indicate tighter security.

So take a break from the craziness to enjoy that java, but watch the Wi-Fi and spend securely! On the fourth day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

 

2nd Day: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas- at the Mall!

Holiday Security Tips: On the second day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 2 shopping tips…

Black Friday  and Cyber Monday will be here before you can say “Man, I ate a lot of turkey!”  Malls, stores, restaurants and cafés are exceptionally busy places during the holidays. This breeds a perfect environment for data thieves to make off with your identity goodies while you shop, dine or relax. It only takes a second to steal a purse from a shopping cart, a briefcase from your car or a smartphone, iPad or laptop from an unattended café table. Solution: Lighten your load and leave excess identity at home. 

  • Consider taking only your mobile phone, driver’s license and one or two credit cards with you shopping to minimize the number of identity storage devices you might misplace. If you can fit the items in your pockets, your security increases. If you must have a purse, use one that zips and hangs in front of you, or consider using a backpack that stays on you at all times.
  • As a last resort, hide your wallet, purse and digital devices in the trunk before you park at the mall, as thieves looking for valuables commonly monitor parking lots for potential victims placing valuables in their trunk.
  • Since you are still likely to take your technology with you (don’t worry, so do I), keep it in a pocket or secured bag at all times. In addition, log out of your online accounts when you are not actively shopping, and password protect your smartphone, iPad and laptop in case they do go missing.
  • Finally, when shopping, be careful about giving out any personal information when it can be overheard, and cover the PIN pad when entering your number at checkout stands and ATMs.

 Taking these two shopping tips (okay, you knew I couldn’t stop at two, so there are actually four), will save you a lot of holiday headaches and let you truly sing that carol within your heart! On the third day of Christmas…

To review our tips from Day 1, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

12 Days to a Safe Christmas: Prevent Holiday Identity Theft

Holiday Security Tips: On the first day of Christmas, my expert gave to me, the keys to secure my privacy.  

If I could give the world a gift this holiday season, it would be to make the world a safer place to trust. You deserve to know whether or not you can trust the politicians you elect, the advice you receive from your doctor and whether or not you can entrust your privacy to the websites and businesses you use every day.

Identity theft, cyber stalking, and “big data” surveillance—these byproducts of the information economy make it hard to rest easy. Every day in the news we hear about another scam, another breach of corporate data that victimizes more than 11 million Americans a year. But you don’t  have to be a statistic!

 Solution: Give yourself a gift by paying attention to prevention.

Let me be totally clear: you do not need to fear information over-exposure if you protect yourself before you get hit. Here is the secret to make peace with the privacy of your sensitive information:  

  • Adopt a preventative mindset and exercise before the information heart attack.
  • Re-accumulate privacy over time, changing habits one step at a time to regain what you’ve given away.
  • Make data privacy an attitude rather than a one-time checklist. Share with care, and only when totally necessary.

Over the next several weeks, Sileo.com will share 11 more tips on protecting your identity, your privacy and your hard-earned money during the holiday season. The 12 Days of Christmas will help you re-accumulate your privacy in time to be safe for whichever holiday you celebrate. Check back every few days for the next tip, or subscribe to the Sileo.com RSS feed.

In the mean time, happy shopping… and don’t stand under any pear trees (you can never trust those partridges)! On the second day of Christmas…

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Don't Get Cyber-Scrooged on Cyber Monday!

Why fight parking-lot-road-rage, UFC-sanctioned-psycho-shoppers and 12 a.m.-midnight-start-times on Black Friday when you can shop from the comfort of your laptop or iPad while sipping eggnog on the couch (or more likely, from your office desk)? I’m talking about Cyber Monday, of course – the day that online merchants heavily discount their products and generally give free shipping as well. By shopping online, you get most of the same deals and discounts (some of them better) without the breakneck competition common in stores the day after Thanksgiving.

Online shopping during the holidays is a convenient, green, inexpensive way to celebrate the season with less stress. In fact, it’s such an efficient way to buy gifts that cyber shoppers will spend close to $2 Billion this coming Monday. If you are one of them, take a few steps to add peace-of-mind to your peaceful holidays.

How to Protect Your Private Data Online on Cyber Monday

  • Never Shop on a Public Wi-Fi Connection – Although you may trust the baristas at your local coffee shop, you can’t always trust the person sitting next to you. Hackers can easily tap into Wi-Fi connections at public hot spots to steal your identity information. This can be especially dangerous when you are making purchases with your credit card on unsecured connections. Options: surf at home or set up Internet Tethering between your smartphone and laptop or tablet so that you are always surfing on an encrypted connection. Unlike most hot-spot transmissions, your mobile phone communications are encrypted and will give you Internet access from anywhere you can make a call.
  • Never use a debit card online – If your card information is compromised, funds can be withdrawn from your bank account without your knowledge. Federal law states that your bank can take up to 2 weeks to investigate fraudulent activity before returning the funds to your account, which means you have nothing to spend in the meantime.  In fact, if you don’t report the missing funds quickly, you could potentially lose all the money on deposit with your bank.
  • Monitor Your Accounts – While you are doing a lot of shopping – online and in the store – it is good to keep an eye on your bank and credit card accounts. Match your receipts up to your statement to make sure that they are correct and there are no fraudulent charges. Keep an eye out for small charges, sometimes that is how crooks test to make sure they have a good card. For convenience, set up credit card account alerts that automatically email or text you every time you make a purchase. It makes detecting fraud a snap.
  • Consider using a virtual or single-use credit card – Some card issuers offer virtual credit cards or single-use card numbers that can be used online. Virtual credit cards use a randomly generated substitute account number in place of your actual credit card number.
  • Never “recycle” a password – Most online shopping sites encourage you to establish a user name and password. Password-protected sites are becoming more vulnerable because people regularly use the same user names and passwords on multiple websites. But do you really want an online retailer to know the password to your online bank account?  If you are using the same password across many sites and your password for one site is breached, everything else is at risk. If you do decide to create a user name and password, make sure it is adequately strong. To assist the creation and safe storage of different passwords, use a password protection software like 1Password.
  • Protect your passwords and personal data – Do not share your passwords with anyone and never provide your social security number, birth date or mother’s maiden name in an email.
  • Only Shop on Trusted Websites – Don’t just let the search engine pick the site for you, make sure you are using a trusted and well-known website. Type in the direct web address for the stores you are familiar with, and don’t shop on price alone.
  • Look for Signs They are Protecting Your Data – On the Web page where you enter your credit card or other personal information, look for an “s” after http in the Web address of that page and a secured padlock (as shown below). Encryption is a security measure that scrambles data as it travels through the Internet. 
  • Make sure all of your security software is up-to-date before you shop online – That includes anti-virus software, anti-spyware and firewalls.

Take a break on Black Friday. Who knows, maybe you’ll start to think of it as White Friday.

Cyber Theft on Cyber Monday

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Don’t let a Cyber Scrooge Spoil Your Holidays!

Although most shoppers gear up and focus on Black Friday, Cyber Monday offers tons of hot deals to online shoppers. It began in 2005 and quickly became one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. On average, online shopping increases by 16% (worth more than $760 million dollars) on this one day alone!

Shoppers find the appeal in avoiding parking lots at malls, bustling stores and frantic holiday crowds. While it is very convenient, you can also be putting yourself at greater risk for identity theft and credit card fraud if you are not careful. In any situation there are steps you can take to protect yourself and make it easier to detect fraud if you become a victim. If you protect yourself, I feel that you are safer shopping online than in person (where about 15% of identity theft takes place).

Protect Yourself Online on Cyber Monday

Here are a few steps to take to protect yourself on Cyber Monday:

  • Never Shop on a Public Wi-Fi Connection – Although you may trust the baristas at your local coffee shop, you can’t always trust the person sitting next to you. Hackers can easily tap into Wi-Fi connections at public hot spots to steal your identity information. This can be especially dangerous when you are making purchases with your credit card on unsecured connections. Always wait until you are on a land line (Ethernet cable) at a location you trust – I recommend making purchases at home.
  • Monitor Your Accounts – While you are doing a lot of shopping – online and in the store – it is good to keep an eye on your bank and credit card accounts. Match your receipts up to your statement to make sure that they are correct and there are no fraudulent charges. Keep an eye out for small charges, sometimes that is how crooks test to make sure they have a good card. For convenience, set up credit card account alerts that automatically email or text you every time you make a purchase. It makes detecting fraud a snap.
  • Only Shop on Trusted Websites – Don’t just let the search engine pick the site for you, make sure you are using a trusted and well-known website. Type in the direct web address for the stores you are familiar with, and don’t shop on price alone.
  • Read the Reviews – When shopping on Ebay or Amazon for gifts this season, read the reviews of the actual seller. While the site may be credited with security, purchasers may have had problems in the past that you want to know about before you buy from them. Only shop on Craigslist if you have extensive experience avoiding online fraud.
  • Look for Signs They are Protecting Your Data – On the Web page where you enter your credit card or other personal information, look for an “s” after http in the Web address of that page and a secured padlock (as shown below). Encryption is a security measure that scrambles data as it travels through the Internet.
  • Keep Your Web Browser Updated – Internet Explorer 7 and 8 provide another layer of protection with Web sites that use Extended Validation (EV) Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificates. The address bar turns green and has both https and the closed padlock. Make sure that when your computer is asking you to update your software you don’t ignore the requests.

Remember, the faster you detect Identity Theft the easier it is to clean it up. Always be aware of what is on your credit report and your bank statements, as crooks rely on our lackadaisical attitude to continue their crooked ways.

John Sileo became America’s top Identity Theft Speaker after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His newest Book Privacy Means Profit – Prevent Identity Theft and Secure You and Your Bottom Line, has just been released. His clients include the Department of Defense, the FTC, Pfizer and the FDIC. To learn more about having him speak at your next meeting or conference, contact him by email or on 800.258.8076.