With the holidays upon us, it is time to prepare for a heightened level of risk due to the season’s festivities. Whether traveling or celebrating at home, you can expect increased crime due to malicious actors who use the holidays to target unsuspecting shoppers and tourists. Concentric’s corporate intelligence team offers the following recommendations to keep you, your family, and business activities safe during this joyful and festive season.
Online Holiday Shopping
Online holiday shopping presents a prime opportunity for criminals to target shoppers and tourists through schemes and cyber attacks. Perpetrators may steal your identity, make purchases using your credit card information, or insert malicious software onto your personal devices. These schemes and scams come in many forms:
- Online Scams. Emails, ads, or untrusted websites which advertise discounts, bargains, and hard to find brand-name products which turn out to not be real or the same as what is advertised upon arrival. Scams can also take the form of social media posts, often appearing as holiday promotions or contests which offer vouchers, gift cards, freebies, contests, and non-existent or counterfeit items. These methods are often designed to trick consumers into revealing personal information which can be used to commit identity theft or fraud.
- Fake Charities. Perpetrators may create false charities to trick individuals into making donations to legitimate charitable organizations. Solicitations can come through cold calls, email campaigns, crowdfunding platforms, or fake social media accounts and websites.
- Fraudulent Gift Cards. Holiday shoppers may receive spoofed emails, phone calls, or texts from individuals who appear to be friends requesting they purchase multiple gift cards for either personal or business reasons. The gift cards are then used to facilitate the purchase of goods and services, which may or may not be legitimate.
Concentric recommends several steps to avoid online holiday shopping scams:
- Verify the legitimacy of websites before providing financial or personal information.
- Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your personal and professional accounts and devices.
- Use strong passwords and a password manager to generate and store unique passwords.
- If the deal from an unknown seller looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do not click on email or text message links from unknown senders and verify any “known” senders.
If you choose to travel during the holidays, you are likely to face heightened security risks posed by malicious actors who target unsuspecting tourists.
Travelers are often prime targets for thieves due to their limited knowledge of the surrounding area and their high-value purchases. Malicious actors may attempt to break into holiday accommodations or rental cars, pickpocket wallets, and snatch and grab purses or shopping bags. To avoid becoming a victim of crime while traveling, maintain awareness of your surroundings at all times and avoid openly wearing or carrying high-value items.
Travelers should also be wary of cyber attacks while abroad. Travelers are particularly at risk of physical theft of devices, having their identity and data stolen while using public networks, malware planted on their devices and targeted ransom attacks, and cryptojacking of their devices to mine cryptocurrencies.
Concentric recommends taking the following actions to ensure you are protected against cyber criminals:
- Utilize a VPN while traveling;
- Avoid connecting to unsecure public Wi-Fi (such as at hotels, airports, and cafes);
- Install remote wipe capability on all devices;
- Purchase business travel insurance to mitigate potential damages due to stolen devices or data.
Homes for the Holidays
Whether you’re traveling or staying in for the festive season, homes filled with valuables and gifts offer prime targets for criminals. These nefarious actors are likely to be on the lookout for residents away on extended holiday travel, leaving homes empty and prime for break-ins. By the time you realize a burglary has occurred, it could be too late.
- Burglars may target your car or residence while you’re away for brief periods at a time.
- Criminals may watch your social media to identify your purchases and travel plans; follow you home from the store
- Lookout for individuals unloading expensive gifts and items. In one instance, two armed robbers broke into a Los Angeles home during a party, and stripped guests of jewelry, phones, and other valuables.
Concentric recommends the following actions to keep your home safe during the holidays:
- Do not place your travel plans on social media or leave notes on the door which inform neighbors or delivery companies of your absence. Instead contact them directly to provide them with instructions during your absence.
- Keep some lights on and/or a TV or radio playing on low volume while away to give the impression someone is home.
- Lock all doors and windows – opportunistic burglars will often change targets when presented with even the littlest of deterrence.
Concentric’s Intelligence and Security Services
Concentric is here to help protect you and your family during the holidays and beyond. We provide measures which not only help to deter criminals, but also mitigate and investigate wrongdoings. Consider reaching out to a Concentric representative for any of the following services:
- Security risk assessments that identify physical vulnerabilities around your residence;
- Cyber vulnerability assessments which identify weaknesses in your cyber practices to help mitigate hacking and doxxing attempts;
- Eclipse by Concentric scrubs personal identifiable information from the internet and provides solutions for ransomware;
- Active monitoring services to protect you during upcoming travel and high-profile events;
- Executive Protection agents that accompany you during high-risk events and travel or protect your home while abroad.
Author: Timothy Davis, Concentric’s Intelligence Analyst for Global Intelligence