How to stay safe online this festive season

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Johannesburg - With a spike in criminal activity over the holiday season, experts have warned consumers to be vigilant against cyber criminals.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) has said that consumers should remain vigilant against cyber criminals as commercial activities increase over the festive season and South Africans increasingly turn to online shopping.

READ: Money-draining smartphone virus hits 318 000 devices

“There are a few common-sense things we can do that will make it much more difficult for criminals to take advantage of us” says Jacqueline Fick, Executive Head of Forensic Services at Cell C.

Six ways to keep yourself safe online:

1.    Social media

Facebook and Twitter are how we let all our friends know about the incredible holidays we are experiencing. 

But it’s also a great source of information for criminals. 

A location “check-in” post on a social media platform could easily be used as intelligence by criminals who are looking for an open house to target. 

Make sure that you check your privacy settings so your posts do not land in the wrong hands. If you prefer an open profile, “checking in” with your location should be avoided. 

2.    Fakes are a holiday staple

Watch out for fake correspondence, pretending to be from an institution such as a bank or tax office.  

These often pop up during this period because we are more focussed on fun than banking or other services. 

Do not click on links in such messages. Rather contact the institution through numbers listed on their websites.

3.    Never share your personal information

Unless you are 100% of who you are handing your information to, never provide your personal details. 

If you think your details have been compromised, change all your passwords immediately and contact the relevant institutions.

READ: One-third of corporate cyber attacks succeed - survey

4.    Public is public

Sometimes we will use a public internet café or even Wi-Fi hotspot to check our internet banking or purchase something online. 

Remember that these services are public services, and can be exposing your personal information without you even realising it. 

Using your own mobile data or a secure Wi-Fi connection is a safer way to complete these transactions. 

5.    Be aware 

Always take note of the websites you use, as well as your transaction history. 

Scrutinise your credit card statement for odd transactions. 

Do not use your card or banking details on sites you don’t trust. 

If you see anything unusual on your statements contacting the bank should be your first port of call. 

6.    Finally – always remember, if you wouldn’t do it in the real world, don’t do it online.

Cyber safety is a personal responsibility, said Fick: “Your bank or provider may have insurance for certain problems, but do not assume they are able to protect you entirely. Owning a digital device such as a phone is a great perk, but also a big responsibility. So be aware, be smart and you can be safe.”

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