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'Tis the season...to have your identity stolen

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I'm no stranger to internet shopping. It's often cheaper than buying at a retail store. The convenience of it is what enables millions of people a year to avoid going to the mall, which is so valuable I would actually pay a premium. It's also a great way to find items that may be obscure or otherwise hard to find (Sidebar: Christmas, 1999. Wanted to buy a metal detector to search for buried treasure in the backyard. Used Christmas money and mom's credit card. Found roughly 13 pennies from the 1970s for a total value of 13¢. Total loss: $199.87. Lesson: Don't let your kid buy a metal detector).

With the internet being safer than ever, we have entered a realm where malicious people from all over the world have gotten more clever and more advanced than ever. The most common threat to internet safety now is accessing insecure websites. Be incredibly careful of where you enter your credit card info. Look up in the address bar for Gmail. See the small padlock next to the "https"? Never enter your card info into a website that doesn't have those two items. Avoid websites that look like they were designed in 1999. Stick to the big guys; Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Target, etc. When in doubt, buy local. Pay in cash (if you've dug up enough pennies by Christmas).

List of a few other tips:

  1. Big websites (especially banks) won't email you asking for personal information.
  2. If you're ever prompted to call a 1-800 number, ignore it. That's not how companies operate anymore.
  3. If something appears in a pop-up window while web-browsing, it's not legitimate, even if it lists your name or computer type. Close your whole browser. If the pop up won't let you, try command+Q to quit it. If that doesn't work, press Command+Option+Esc to open the Force Quit menu. Select your browser, and click Force Quit. When you re-open the browser, don't open the previously closed sites.
  4. If Google Chrome or Firefox warns you of the security of a site, it's best to listen and find a different website.
  5. Download this software and let it scan if you're ever concerned. This is a free and powerful anti-malware tool. Malware is becoming increasingly more common on Macs so it's wise to have this downloaded before you need it.
  6. Update your browser regularly. Don't neglect phone upgrades either.
  7. Don't connect to insecure public WiFi networks. Only connect to secured, password protected networks. When in doubt, stick to data. 
  8. Amazon Prime is worth it. Don't neglect Prime Video if you're getting sick of Netflix, either.
  9. Don't buy your kid a metal detector. Seriously. Buried treasure in Boise, Idaho? What were we thinking?

Gus McGee is always happy to talk about digital safety. He can give you some examples of the sneaky cyber crimes being committed all over the world. This year, Gus is cutting out the middle man and just asking for buried treasure directly.