Sparklight Urges Safety During Holiday Season

As the holiday season approaches and shoppers are enticed with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on everything from socks to smartphones, Sparklight encourages consumers to be vigilant about their online safety.

“Experts predict that U.S. shoppers will set online spending records this holiday season. The more prevalent online shopping becomes, the more sophisticated hackers get,” said Cary Westmark, Vice President of Information Technology. “Holiday shoppers need to be aware of safeguards before sharing any personal information online.”

Think before you click

Scammers and hackers often send “phishing” emails that appear to be from a trusted source in order to collect confidential account information. No legitimate service will ask you to send your username and password – they will only ask that you visit their official website and log in. Warning signs of a phishing email can include a suspicious email address from the sender and misspellings and grammatical errors throughout the email. These clues, paired with requests for personal information or requests to click on a link, are signs that the message is not legitimate. Never click the links in a suspicious email and be skeptical of offers that seem too good to be true.

Use strong passwords

There are a variety of ways hackers will try to obtain passwords. The test of a strong password is length, randomness and uniqueness. Aim for 16-24 characters that are completely random and use every character type – uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols – or put together four unrelated words of good length strung together. Avoid using the same passwords for online shopping sites or other web activities because if one gets hacked, they are all exposed. Consider using a reputable password manager.

Look for the HTTPS

Before completing an online purchase, make sure the website is security enabled by looking for URLs with https:// at the beginning. The “s” stands for secure and means the website is using encryption to help keep your information protected. If you are using an unsecure server (HTTP) or using a public wireless network, do not share personal information such as a credit card number.

Shopping via Mobile App

Similar to phishing emails, phony retail apps are created with logos that look like an authentic business. Scammers can use these apps to steal your identity or infect your device with malware. Verify an app’s authenticity by downloading it from the company’s official website. If downloading from an app store, check to see how long it’s been around, keep an eye out for misspellings in the app description, and take a look at the ratings and reviews – you don’t want to be the first to download a new shopping app.

Be Vigilant

Keep your receipts, shipping and tracking information, and be sure to monitor your credit card activity even more frequently during the holidays so you can spot any suspicious activity right away.