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Steps to help protect against cyber threats

Cyber Monday is just around the corner. With online holiday retail sales projected to increase as much as 15% over last year, the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) is encouraging you to take some simple steps to stay safe while shopping for your family and friends.

“The holiday season is a prime time for hackers, scammers and online thieves who are out there looking to take advantage,” said Virginia’s Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Michael Watson. “The primary threats range from bad actors trying to trick people with fake products, claims of unauthorized credit card activity and even fake shipping details for products. They’ll also try to take advantage of people’s good nature to extract personal and financial information through fake charities or websites.”

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and your family against these cyber threats:

Think before you click: Watch out for ads and emails encouraging you to click on links. Instead, go directly to the company’s website to verify the offer is legitimate.

Consider your payment options: Using a credit card provides users more financial protection than using a debit card. You can also use third-party payment services to purchase gifts and other goods.

Keep tabs on your bank and credit card statements: You should frequently check your accounts for any unrecognized activity. Most credit cards allow a cardholder to place alerts for activity on a card. Monitoring and good recordkeeping go hand-in-hand with protecting your personal information.

Use a secure Wi-Fi: Using public Wi-Fi to check your shopping list or compare some prices is tremendously convenient but is not cyber safe. Instead of public Wi-Fi, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or your mobile phone as a hotspot.

“One other thing to note, if you do fall for one of these scams or tricks, you’re not alone. It happens to many people,” said Watson. “But you should know what to do. Reach out to local law enforcement and report it. You can also use credit freezes to protect yourself.”