8 holiday scams and mistakes to avoid

You're not the only one feeling merry and bright this holiday season - so are the criminals! This time of year provides them with plenty of opportunities for Scrooge-worthy scams. Here's how to ensure all they'll get is coal in their stocking

00 title
Credit: Shutterstock
Happy hacker days

Yes, ‘tis the season to be jolly, but it is also the season to be careful. In today’s world of e-commerce, social media and ubiquitous mobile devices, the holidays have also come to be known as “hacker season,” in large measure because so much business is being done, and the busier people get, the more careless they get.

You don’t have to be a victim, however. Brian Shipman, CIO of Heritage Auctions; Scott M. Angelo, CIO at K&L Gates, LLP; and Dave Frymier, CISO at Unisys, offer some friendly reminders to help organizations protect their networks and help their employees protect both themselves and the organization.

ALSO: Hack the halls: Watch out for Cyber Monday scamathon

01 giveaway
Credit: Shutterstock
Don’t let your gift give away the company jewels

Resist the temptation to use that new laptop, tablet or smartphone, etc. for work. Personal devices generally don’t come close to having adequate security controls. At a minimum, check with your IT department first. They probably have a list of supported devices – make sure you get one of those. That also means don’t forward your work emails to your Internet email account or vice versa – that could expose your corporate data to a multitude of risks.

02 flash drive
Credit: Shutterstock
Beware thieves bearing gifts

That gift basket from a vendor with free USB drives for everybody in the office could be from someone posing as a vendor. Always consider free USB drives as Phish Sticks, unless they are obviously from a very trusted partner. You wouldn’t eat a hamburger from somebody you don’t know. Don’t use random USB drives either.

03 breakin
Credit: Shutterstock
Don’t be too sociable

If you want to use social media to tell everybody about your fabulous vacation or attending a show or a concert, do it after you get back. Advertising your travel plans ahead of time paints a target around you and your empty house.

04 phishing
Credit: Shutterstock
Don’t take the phishing bait

Hackers have become much better at crafting fake emails that look like the real thing. They’ve mostly eliminated spelling and grammatical errors. So, never believe the message or click a link in an email unless you are certain of its origins. If it purportedly comes from someone you know, check the real address of the sender before you reply.

05 pick pocket
Credit: Shutterstock
Location awareness: Know where your devices are

Increased travel means an increased threat of theft of your devices. Keep a close eye on your laptops, tablets, phones, and wearables. And don’t use public Wi-Fi for anything personal or confidential – you’re asking to be hacked.

06 pin protection
Credit: Shutterstock
PIN protection

It may take a few extra seconds, but make sure you cover the PIN pad when you enter your number at any retailer or bank ATM. The prying eyes can come from remote HD cameras as well as thieves lurking in the area.

07 foreign atm
Credit: REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Beware the foreign ATM

Some countries/locations are notorious for having hidden scanners on ATM machines that steal your card and PIN number. Use trusted ATMs only.

08 threat phone call
Credit: Shutterstock
Don’t fall for the threatening call

Phone calls claiming you are about to be sued by the IRS, or have defaulted on your student loans, etc., are on the rise. Never answer these calls. Contact your appropriate representatives yourself if you are in doubt.