During the month of November, there is traditionally an increase in internet traffic as many consumers complete their holiday shopping online. In years past, Black Friday became one of the most notable holiday events with local stores participating in multiple special sales. Now, many of these sales extend onto the merchants’ websites. They are not only limited to the Friday after Thanksgiving but extend to the following week as well.

The Monday after Thanksgiving has become known as Cyber Monday.

For many, this trend has become as much of a holiday staple as Black Friday shopping, college football, and turkey. Although the sales are appealing, they also pose a risk. Cyber criminals are well aware of this American tradition and over the past few years there has been a steady increase in cyber attacks on those who shop during this popular holiday.

Whether you will be shopping for yourself or your loved ones, it is important to take precautions. It is equally important to remember that taking safety precautions with your financial information is a wise lesson at any time throughout the year and not just during the holiday season.

We know that you want to make sure that you and those you care about are always protected from any sort of identity theft, fraud, or other form of scams.

Let us share a few critical tips you can use to protect yourself on Cyber Monday and throughout this holiday season.

1- Do not trust the websites you visit. Although it may seem counterintuitive, you cannot trust any website that you interact with. You need to perform your due diligence before searching on a particular website or filling out the payment information. Take a look at the website URL. This is the address for the website and should start with “http”. If the site is secure, it will have “https”, the “s” stands for security. Consider not engaging with any website that has an out of date or incomplete security certificate.

2- Monitor you digital footprint. You want to keep an eye on your financial bank records at all times, but especially during the holiday season. Many Americans still only monitor their accounts through mailed paper statements each month. Unfortunately, when it comes to cyber criminals, waiting for your monthly bank statement may not be proactive enough. Instead, you want to engage safely with a secure banking or credit card website to frequently check on your account balances and watch for any suspicious activity.

3- Consider paying for an identity theft protection system. There are services that can protect you against the threat of someone trying to  access your bank accounts, credit cards, or personal information. There are a number of services that, for a low monthly cost, can help you ensure that you are protected at all times. You may also want to subscribe with them for real time alerts either through text messages or to a trusted individual in your family, such as your agent, who is also able to be notified should there be suspicious activity on your account.

We know that this can be an alarming topic to discuss. Losing our identity or access to our money is never an easy subject to discuss. It is important, though, to take steps to make sure you are as protected as you can be. Whether this is for yourself or a loved one, make sure you are in the best position possible to potentially avoid a cyber attack and financial scams. If you have questions on this or any estate planning issues, we encourage you not to wait to schedule a meeting with our attorneys.