Holiday Fraud Trends

Holiday Fraud Trends

This year is expected to be one of the highest online shopping years ever. With the ease of being able to shop at home on your couch, consumers are realizing there is no need to face busy crowds and wait in long lines when you can order virtually every gift online.

With this in mind, here is what you need to be cautious of:

  • Click Here Emails: Be careful with emails that state you are being given a holiday
    gift or free gift from a popular merchant – similar to the one on the right. Beware of the ‘Click Here’ catch.
  • Amazon Email Scam: Be cautious of emails you receive from Amazon that say your account is about to expire and your account will be de-activated if you don’t follow the provided steps.
  • Bargain Shopper: If you are a bargain shopper, make sure to check online for reviews on Google or the Better Business Bureau. Type in the seller’s name/business with “scam” and see if it checks out.
  • Gift Cards: If you are purchasing gift cards for that hard to buy person, make sure to check the back of the card to verify that the area with the protective scratch-off hasn’t been tampered with.
  • Charity Giving: The holidays bring out the warm side of people and the desire to spread holiday cheer. If you decide to donate to a charity, make sure it’s one that you are familiar with. Research before donating.

When shopping online, you can follow these steps:

  • Only provide card or account details on secure websites when checking out. Look for the padlock symbol (see example on the right).padlock
  • Use PayPal to check out, if possible.
  • Always keep your device’s security software up-to-date.
  • Check account statements and report any suspicious transactions immediately.

Happy holidays and safe shopping!

Cyber Security: Threats, Prevention & Education

Cyber Security: Threats, Prevention & Education

Stop. Think. Connect.

Did you know that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM)? This is a month to raise awareness about protecting yourself against security threats, and staying safer and more secure online. Take this opportunity to raise awareness by educating yourself, your family and your friends.

Current Threats

As cyber security threats continue to grow in quantity and sophistication, it is critical that we remain educated on the latest attack methods and scams. Recent threats include social engineering, impersonating calls, email phishing and ransomware.

Impersonating calls are becoming more common and have included fraudsters pretending to be the IRS, the lottery saying you have won, the authorities saying they have a warrant for your arrest, or even vendor who have ‘detected’ a threat on your PC. If you receive a call, Stop, Think and Take Action. These sources would never call you regarding this information, how would they have known your phone number, and if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Never visit a website as instructed over the phone, and don’t let them access your computer.

Email phishing themes can include invoices, past due messages and even an announcement of a tragic event, such as the death of a loved one.

Ransomware is when the files on your PC or mobile device are encrypted and held for ransom. Avoid ransomware by being proactive; patch all software on your devices as updates are available, remain on current operating systems and practice safe web browsing and email processing habits.

Prevention Steps

Taking preventive steps will help to protect your personal devices and information.

  • Patch your PC and mobile device Operating Systems
  • Patch all software on your PC and remain on current versions
  • Utilize anti-virus and make sure it is current
  • Practice safe web browsing habits
  • Create backups of sensitive information in order to avoid loss due to ransomware.
  • Use unique passwords on various websites:
    • Unique: Use different passwords between systems. A compromise of one system doesn’t place access to another at risk
    • Strong: Avoid dictionary words which are easily guessed or cracked. “Fall2016” is a very weak password!
    • Long: Long passwords are harder to guess and crack

Having layers of protection helps to protect your systems. Stop, think and consider your actions on a mobile device. Consider, do you have the same security controls as you have in place on your PC?

Educate Family

We often allow children to utilize our devices. This may place the devices at risk. The Internet can be a dangerous place for children. Learn how to protect them! Enable web browsing protection ( and talk to your children about the dangers of the internet (

Additional Resources

Top Three Takeaways: Cyber Security Awareness Month

Did you know that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month? This month gives us an opportunity to increase awareness about the need to maintain our electronic devices, as well as to learn how to spot malicious email and recent scams. To recognize this month, we wanted to provide you with the top three takeaways in regards to cyber security.

#1 – Maintain Your Devices

Many of us rely on mobile devices for day to day activities. In order to protect the sensitive information which they process, it’s important to maintain these devices. We also can’t forget about our PC which may not be used as frequently. A few basic maintenance tips include:

  • Make sure your Anti-Virus software is current.
  • Enable auto updates and apply patches to all software on your PC on a frequent basis.
  • Run only vendor supported versions of software and Operating System.
  • Enable screen locking and use strong, unique passwords not used in other locations.
  • Enable a firewall when possible on your PC and on your DSL/Cable modem.
  • Make sure you change the password on your DSL/Cable modem and configure it to be administered only from your network while directly attached with a network cable.

#2 – Protect Your Accounts

Many of us utilize email and social media to communicate with our customers, family and friends. Did you know that many of these accounts offer you additional security protection?

During Cyber Security Awareness Month, I encourage you to learn more about enabling security features in order to protect your accounts. Did you know you can enable alerting for account related transactions within online banking? This is a simple, but effective way to detect unauthorized activity associated with your account.

When using third party websites it is important to understand their security features. Search for the term security in the Help section on the website to learn about security features such as the ability to regain access to your account if a malicious individual has gained access and reset your password. Examples of security features include:

  • Receiving a text containing a code sent to your phone each time you are attempting to access your account.
  • Receiving a text when a new device attempts to access your account.

#3 – Communicate With Your Bank

If you identify that a device which is used to access online banking or other sensitive information, has been compromised, please let us know immediately by contacting us at (800) 359-8092, so that we can enhance fraud monitoring on your account.

While these three takeaways are important, they are just a small part of cyber security awareness. If you are interested in learning more, there are many educational resources that contain a broad array of tips, including:

J. Van Nevel

Information Security Officer, Jesse Van Nevel, has an extensive background in computer and electronic security with more than 16 years of experience. Jesse is a member of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) and InfraGard. He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA).

In his spare time, Jesse enjoys spending time with family, scuba diving, and camping.