COOKEVILLE – The holiday season is joyous, with gift giving, great food and family time together. But Eric Brown, Assistant Director of Tennessee Tech’s Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center, wants you to remember that for cyber criminals, it’s also the most wonderful time of the year.
“Absolutely it’s Christmas time for them,” said Brown. “It’s the time of year we can have panics over shipments that don’t arrive or charities that need to be addressed or so many other things to make sure we have that sense of urgency so that we click that link.”
According to Brown, scammers have gotten much more sophisticated, using emails, text messages and phone calls. He says scammers are able to find just enough personal information on the Internet to make their pitch quite compelling.
“I can assure you with the recent round of tornadoes we will start seeing messages that if you’d like to donate to help recovery efforts, we’re going to start seeing that,” said Brown. Though the means of scamming employed are more sophisticated, Brown says the way to avoid it is still simple.
“Part of it is grandmother’s common sense,” Brown continued. “Don’t count on emails alone for important transactions. If you initiated something, the information is going to be in the same portal where you initiated the action. If you’re getting text messages you haven’t initiated, don’t trust it.”
Even if you’re careful, it’s still possible to make a mistake. Brown has recommendations for things to do if you realize you’ve clicked where you shouldn’t have.
“Immediately turn off your machine, if it’s your computer, if it’s your smartphone, if you suspect it’s been hacked,” said Brown. “I also recommend that you change your passwords on your email accounts, Amazon accounts, things like that. Change your bank account password.”
Brown says it’s also important to reach out and be helpful to those who are older or might be less computer savvy.
“Hey grandma, we’re hearing there are calls going out from whomever, don’t talk to them, hang up,” said Brown. “Older individuals have a problem hanging up on people because they consider it rude. Reach out to your family and make them aware of these things.”
Brown recommends the website www.cisa.gov/shop-safely as an excellent resource on how to avoid scams. He says the bottom line is still some of grandmother’s common sense.
“If it looks too good to be true, it’s too good to be true,” said Brown.