Attorney General provides tips for consumer security this holiday season

Posted at 5:00 PM, Nov 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-22 20:00:19-05

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris offered some tips to help consumers be more secure while shopping this holiday season:

  • Review your bank and credit card statements frequently for unusual transactions.  Immediately report any suspicious activity.
  • In the event of a security breach involving your debit or credit card, monitor your account and contact your bank promptly if you see any suspicious transactions.
  • If the security breach involves your debit card, the best way to protect yourself is to immediately cancel the card and get a replacement card with a different number.
  • If you receive a call from your credit card company that requests you to verify your account information for security reasons, ask to call the credit card company back and then call the telephone number listed on your credit card.
  • Shipping e-mail scams are becoming increasingly common. Be wary of e-mails that appear to be from shipping companies that contain an attached file; this is a good indication that you have received a fraudulent e-mail that contains a virus. Also, during the holiday season, theft of packages becomes more common. If you do not have a secure area for delivery companies to leave a package, consider requiring a signature for packages or having packages held for pickup at a nearby shipping center.
  • Parents and grandparents should be wary of scam artists who pretend to be a child or friend of a child who has encountered a medical or legal emergency and needs money immediately. Scammers are able to get personal information from social media to make the calls sound legitimate.
  • Scammers can use handheld scanners and counterfeit credit cards to use gift cards that they do not actually have. Only buy gift cards that are kept behind the store's customer service counter or activated upon checkout. Before buying the card ask for it to be scanned to show that it is fully valued.

Online Safety Basics for the Holidays:

  • Say "no" to bad websites. A secure website always has a padlock icon and "https" in the web address (aka the URL" at the top of the page).
  • Say "no" to strange apps. Scammers can use mobile apps and games to hide malware that steals your personal information.
  • Know your Wi-Fi.  Don't use free wireless networks, such as those in coffee shops, when you shop online. Waiting until your have a secure connection is a smart and easy way to bypass identity theft and financial fraud.
  • Know your device. Public computers, such as those in hotel business centers, may contain viruses and malware that steal your information.
  • Update and patch computers, phones and tablets. Say "yes" and "now" to system updates on your devices. Use up-to-date anti-virus protection and make sure it is receiving updates.
  • Use strong passwords.
  • Credit - never debit - for online shopping. Pay with a credit card rather than a debit card. In case of fraud or a data breach, debit cards do not have the same consumer protections as credit cards. 
  • Protect against pop-ups. If a window pops up promising rewards for quizzes and surveys, close it by pressing Control + F4 on a Windows computer and Command + W on a Mac.
  • Give yourself a gift: adopt easy "two-step" protection. A two-step protection process for your e-mail account pairs "something you know" - like a password or PIN - with "something you have," like your cell phone or a physical token. It adds an extra layer of security to prevent access to your account and the personal information in it.