Don’t Let Cybercriminals Dampen the Holiday Spirit

Forget your New Year’s resolution to get back to the gym: your credit and debit cards are probably already getting a workout both in stores and online as gift-buying season is upon us.

While it may be a busy time of year for you, it’s an even busier time for cybercriminals who are on the lookout for easy targets amidst the stream of in-store and online transactions.

But Sword & Shield security experts say there are some simple steps both consumers and merchants can practice to thwart criminal activity whether you’re shopping at a big box store or online from the privacy of your own home.

Director of PCI Services John Harmon says that merchants and customers should cooperate on safety measures at the point-of-sale.

“One of the biggest things that both consumers and merchants can do during the holiday season is for merchants to ask for ID when using payments cards and for consumers to not get upset or angry when asked for ID,” he said. They should, instead, thank the merchant for checking and helping to reduce payment card fraud.”

Consumers can also opt to use their new Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV), or “Chip and PIN,” cards when they shop at some of the larger retailers. The chip-enabled cards are more secure because the use of the card requires a PIN to be entered for the transaction to process.

But, be careful. While merchants were required to convert to the new EMV card readers in October or face the risk of being liable if they accept a stolen credit card, not all merchants have made the shift to the new card readers.

Many other consumers choose to do the bulk of their shopping on the Internet and this opens up several other avenues for cyberthieves to steal data and/or money.

Here are some tips to help you protect yourself online this holiday season:

  1. Use sites that have secure connections. The URL will start with “https” instead of the traditional “http.”
  2. Use one card with a low credit limit for online shopping. If the card is compromised, cybercriminals can’t rack up too many charges.
  3. Make sure you’re shopping at the correct site. Cybercriminals can set up fake websites that mimic popular sites by using man-in-the-middle attacks. The site looks like your trusted site, but isn’t secure.
  4. Secure your devices and networks. Keep in mind that if you are using a mobile device on a public Wi-Fi, you have no guarantee of security. At home, make sure your network’s operating system is up-to-date and you have installed anti-virus and/or firewall protections.

Ultimately, being proactive about credit card security will give you a more enjoyable shopping experience this holiday season. You should be diligent about protecting your data throughout the year because cybercriminals are always looking for their next victim regardless of the date on the calendar.

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