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franklin county times

Beware of cyber threats as holiday shopping begins

FRANKLIN LIVING—A recent statistic shows phishing and spoofing scams are up 400 percent since the arrival of COVID-19. Cyber threats of all kinds have evolved and increased exponentially. They are happening more frequently and with greater sophistication than ever before.

We live in a world where we are constantly consuming information, so it’s no wonder malicious actors have ramped up their game.

With the holidays drawing near, these scams will increase even more. Unending online shopping and the onslaught of junk emails pouring into our inboxes set us up for possible cyber attacks.

You are your best defense with it comes to staying safe. Staying cautious and taking a defensive stance before your click on anything can make all the difference in your online protection. Keep the following best practices in mind as you head into the busiest shopping season of the year.

1. Password Management: Most users have at least four websites with the same password. Now I know we are all in password overload, but make sure you never use the same password for other sites that you use for your banking information. If your password is cracked, the more sites you used it on, the more opportunities for criminals to access your information.

2. Links = Risk: Cybercriminals are more innovative than ever at creating emails and texts to prompt you to click a link. A common scam is a text message or email telling you there was a problem with a shipment and that you should click the link to learn more or track your package. Always go back to your order confirmation that you received after placing your order and track your package there or directly on the website from which you ordered. Also, links for holiday deals, one-day specials or tremendous savings are so tempting, but if you want to check out a deal, do a search from scratch yourself – never by clicking the link.

3. Trust Your Gut: If something seems suspicious or not quite right, DO NOT CLICK on it. It’s kind of like text message or voicemails that say, “Your Social Security number has been compromised; call immediately to get the issue resolved;” you can’t help but panic when you receive a message like that, but if something makes you panic and feel frantic to respond, the scam is working. Check things out from sources you trust. Look up the phone number or web address yourself instead of trusting something sent to you to click on or call.  It is also totally fine to hang up on someone you don’t trust – even if they say it’s your bank. Hang up, call a number you know and trust and verify the information. Better to be rude than taken advantage of. The financial ramifications can be extensive if someone gains access to your accounts.

4. Most Importantly: Know you are always a target. We all are. The mindset of “It won’t happen to me” is a thing of the past. Cyber criminals don’t care who you are; everyone is a potential victim. Be cautious year round but even more so during the holiday season.

Emily Mays is vice president/senior marketing director at Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, working in finance for 14 years. She is an enthusiastic social media marketer, financial literacy advocate and go local supporter. She lives in East Franklin and has one daughter, Lola.