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Tis the Season to be Wary

Hanukkah is some six weeks away, and Christmas is some two months away – but product shortages and rising prices already have put many people deep into their holiday shopping season. So, as you search for availability and the lowest possible price, we’ll bring back the words of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (Michael Conrad) from Hill Street Blues: Let’s be careful out there.

We expect fake emails and fake websites to be especially plentiful and challenging this year. Product shortages will add urgency to everyone’s shopping, and urgency can lead to carelessness. We’ve said over the years that scammers are getting better every day at mimicking the appearance of a company logo and advertising style. They’ll send you an email from an address that looks like it could be real, but as some have learned the hard way, it’s a spoof. When you respond, they’ll try to sell you something that doesn’t exist, and they’ll get your credit card info, too. They may also entice you to click on a link that will download malware onto your computer, opening a big, wide door to get into all your personal data.

Popup ads are a challenge, too. They can also appear to mimic a merchant or manufacturer, and you might not notice something like an extra letter or number that makes it a fake. Clicking on a bogus link will most likely lead to both paying something for nothing and opening the door to your data.

These dangers can be especially bad for employers who allow employees to shop from their office computer. If you allow them to shop, it’s best to educate them about online safety. Make sure they know to look very, very carefully at every email address and every URL (internet address). If something doesn’t look right, delete it or ignore it. Don’t call a phone number; that will only open up more possibilities to be hacked or scammed.

If anyone is looking for a specific product, get information from the manufacturer’s website by opening up a browser window and typing in the URL. They can also get phone numbers from the website, and the website may tell them where they can buy a product. If they do a search to find out where to buy a product, stick to well-known merchant sites.

Finally, if something looks too good to be true, it’s probably a fake.

If you think your computer systems at home or the office have been compromised, disconnect the computer from the internet and call us – 973-433-6676 – so we can take a look and do whatever we can to mitigate your problem. Let this be a holiday season of joy – not fear and trepidation.

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