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As the holiday season approaches and it’s the time of year to shop, the Internet offers convenience not available from other shopping outlets. From the comfort of your home, you can search for items from multiple stores and make purchases without waiting in line. However, you should be vigilant when browsing or shopping online this holiday season.

There are a few things to look out for:

Watch out for fraudulent emails and websites

Emails and eCards sent from unknown senders could contain malicious links. Fake advertisements or shipping notifications may deliver attachments infected with malware; email messages of phony social media posts requesting support for fraudulent causes. Avoid clicking on these links or downloading any attachments when the emails are from unknown senders.

Check to see if the online vendor is encrypted.

If the transaction information isn’t encrypted, an attacker may be able to intercept the information as it is transmitted to the vendor. Be on the lookout for statements or badges on a checkout page to ensure the transaction is encrypted. Attackers may obtain a site certificate for a malicious website to appear more authentic, so the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends you review the certificate information, particularly the “issued to” information.

Do business with reputable vendors.

Before typing in your information, make sure you are interacting with a reputable, established vendor. Look at customer reviews not only on the vendor’s website, but the FTC recommends to comparing reviews from a variety of sites.

Make sure your information is encrypted.

Many sites use what’s called secure sockets layer “SSL” to encrypt information. As a user, you can tell if the site is encrypted by looking at the web address. If the site is safely encrypted, you’ll see “https:” with a padlock at the beginning of the address.

Be wary of emails asking for information.

Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending emails requesting that you confirm your purchase or account information. A legitimate business will not ask for this information through email. Do not provide sensitive information through email.

If you believe you are a victim of a holiday phishing scam or malware campaign, here are the steps you can take:

  • File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Center (IC3).
  • Report the attack to the police and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Contact your preferred Heartland Bank branch immediately and close any accounts that may have been compromised.
  • Change any passwords you might have used and don’t use that password again. 
Cindy Moyle

Cindy is a Senior Vice President /Information Technology and Operations Director for Heartland Bank. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Outside of the bank, Cindy enjoys spending time with her family and going to garage sales and flea markets.

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