Christmas-Kids and Hackers Love This Time of Year

When people think of Christmas, most of them imagine family gatherings and good times. We often forget that from the end of Thanksgiving to the beginning of the year, the U.S. spends billions of additional dollars on merchandise that otherwise would have stayed on the shelves. Children and grown-ups alike look forward to the Christmas holiday all year, and the tradition of gift giving is one of the most iconic elements in the collective conscious of American life. We sometimes forget that hackers love this season as well.

We pull out our credit cards and hand them over to shop keepers at an unprecedented rate during this time of year. How often do we stop to consider that the stores where we are shopping may or may not be living up the security standards that are required by the credit card companies (the standard is known as PCI)? During Christmas, we often shop at locations that are different than our usual patterns, so the fraud detection systems many of us rely upon are less effective during this time of the year. We also use the Internet for shopping even more than usual, so having on-line charges may not raise any red flags either.

Hackers are counting on the lack of security and the inability of fraud detection systems to notice strange buying patterns. Stores are so busy this time of year, that if a hacker goes into a store and replaces a credit card reader with one that is designed to not only pass credit card data, but steal it as well, will someone notice? Here is an article about just such a skimmer that was recently discovered. Point-of-Sale systems are loaded with extra credit card data right now, like stuffed Christmas stockings, so electronic theft is more appealing than ever to a criminal. If the past few years have shown us anything, it is that thieves are more active during this time of year because they follow the money (and credit cards in this case)? We all want to enjoy the upcoming holiday season, but it is important for everyone to be extra diligent with their credit cards and bank cards. When your statement comes in, take extra time to review it and look for unusual activity. If you still do not participate in a credit monitoring service, consider looking into one just to make sure that your identity is not compromised. This is the season for joy, but that is no reason to forget that criminals are out there looking for victims, even during Christmas.