tis-seasonAh, the holidays. A time of celebration, a time to give thanks, and a time for scammers to defraud as many people of as many dollars as they can.

Yes, the holiday season means the bad guys will be in full force to take advantage of anyone hoping to get some good deals on gifts this year. Be prepared to see tons of spam email as well as reports of websites getting hacked or redirected. But hope is not lost!

With knowledge and vigilance you can survive the holiday season without some thief draining your bank account. Here are some tips to avoid scams and malware on Mobile Thursday, Cyber Monday and any other day of the year:

1. Don’t believe everything you read! Especially in your inbox. The holiday-themed spam has already begun, claiming to have ‘too good to be true’ deals. If you’re receiving email from sources that you know you have not signed up for, report them as spam and delete them.

2. Use only trusted sites and app stores! If you do any online shopping, stick with the names you know and trust. Make sure your purchases are made on sites beginning with ‘https’ (not just ‘http’) and be sure to only download apps from trusted app stores.

3. Shop from sites, not from emails. Occasionally you may get an email from a retailer you know that claims to have a great deal. However emails can be easily spoofed to look legitimate. If it’s a purchase you’d really like to make, go directly to the retailer’s site instead of using the links in the email and make sure it is a legitimate sale.

4. Never give out your account information! You may receive emails that appear to be from a bank, asking for your account number, password, PIN, etc. so they can ‘verify’ your account. BANKS WILL NEVER ASK FOR THIS INFORMATION. Report the scam email to your bank. The same goes for any online retailers with whom you have an account. Some baddies go so far as to call people and act as though they are bank representatives. HANG UP and then call your bank directly.

5. Keep your antivirus updated! Most of the scams out there are trying to get your credit card or bank info, which is bad enough. Still others will attempt to install viruses or spyware on your computer or mobile device so they can cause even more trouble. Make sure your antivirus is current, as well as your operating system updates. Don’t have an antivirus? Check out SecureIT.

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