Cybercrime: How To Keep Your Information Safe This Holiday Season

November 23, 2021

Photo of Dr. Tom HoltWith the Holiday Season fast approaching, we are speaking with experts within the School of Criminal Justice to learn how we can keep our information safe and avoid scams. Today, we hear from Dr. Tom Holt on how to protect our information from cybercriminals.


What is the biggest threat that consumers will face this holiday season?

The biggest threats during the holidays tend to involve phishing, identity fraud stemming from suspect websites and non-delivery of goods purchased through questionable retailers. There is also the potential to be ripped off by purchasing goods without carefully reading the information about the product or understanding that they may be counterfeit versions of legitimate products.

How can we keep ourselves safe on Cyber Monday and during our online shopping endeavors this holiday season?

There are a few different strategies people can employ. First, carefully read every email that you receive, so as to avoid responding to fraudulent email requests or clicking through scam services on social media sites. Second, avoid making purchases from retailers you have never heard of before, or do not necessarily trust. If a price seems too good to be true, there is potential that it may be a scam of some type. Third, it is smart to avoid making purchases on unsecured Wi-Fi networks. The coffee shop that has open Wi-Fi may be observable to hackers and others who could steal your information as it moves through the network.

Is our information safe if we use “known” brand sites like Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon, Etsy, etc.?

Your information will be safer because of the resources they have in place to protect your digital information. For instance multiple companies use what is called two factor authentication to validate you as a user. These services can be compromised, though, so it is always wise to monitor your bank account and credit cards for suspicious transactions. That way you may identify fraud before it can get out of hand.

If we only did one thing to keep our digital information safe, what would you recommend?

I highly recommend using different passwords across the services that you use. If you use the same password across your bank account and email address, an attacker can easily take over your accounts through a simple phishing scheme.

What about in stores? A lot of small businesses are using Square and other credit card payment processors? How do we keep our information safe there?

In stores, your risk of loss is different. The point-of-sale terminals are secured in a variety of ways. The same is true for Square and other services. Conveniently, you can always use cash should you be especially concerned about the risk of loss in a store.

What can we do to verify if a retailer or charity is “legit” and that our digital information wont be used against us?

First check the URL of the store, to make sure you are buying from the correct retailer before making a purchase. With respect to charities and businesses alike you can do some careful googling to identify information about them, and you can check with the Better Business Bureau to assess the information about a business. You can also check the federal trade commission’s website, and the Internet crime complaint center for more information about recent scams and threats that may involve a service you’re looking at.


To learn more about how to avoid scams, we have compiled a list of resources below:

Federal Trade Commission (Avoiding & Reporting Scams):

Federal Trade Commission (Consumer Information):