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Cyber Safety: How to Avoid a Holiday Financial Hangover

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Sarah Nicholas

Cookies, candies and fudge – oh, my! The holidays bring a host of temptations that can take months of dieting and exercise to undo. With cybercrime rampant and consumers especially vulnerable, the holiday season can also wreak havoc on your wallet well beyond your shopping budget.

Phishing and fraud peak during the holiday shopping season, which runs October through January. According to research from F5 and Webroot, fraud incidents in October, November and December increase 50% over the annual average. Phishing is the most successful attack method, because it produces the most stolen records. Phishing is a technique where thieves send text messages, emails or links impersonating legitimate organizations to lure you into relinquishing your personal, sensitive information. This includes bank and credit card accounts, social security numbers, birth dates, email addresses and phone numbers.

Your holiday to-dos may be as long as Santa’s naughty list, but as you’re running around, try to keep your cyber safety hat on. Whether you’re looking for a deal on the hottest toy, applying for last-minute credit for more savings or considering donating to that charity you’ve never heard of (because ‘tis the season!), keep these things in mind to avoid a holiday financial hangover.


Set up and activate two-factor authentication for all your banking sites, including any investment sites (401k, etc.).


You’re likely to do at least some of your holiday shopping online (cybercriminals are banking on it!). Slow down, use your instincts, and follow these tips for safe shopping.


Up your game when it comes to account monitoring from now until well into the new year (as late as March, when some delayed transactions can show up). Set up account alerts and review your bank and credit card account activity at least every few days. This will allow you to catch and report any suspicious activity timely, giving authorities a better chance of tracking down the perpetrators.


Keep your guard up! It may sound obvious, but with all the pressures and obligations of the season – long shopping lists, overbooked social calendars, year-end deadlines – you’re extra vulnerable. You’re distracted, and you may feel rushed and overwhelmed, leaving you prey to falling for common scams you might not otherwise. Before you click, take a breath, remember to be discerning and follow basic cybersecurity best practices.


Kick off the new year by changing the passwords on all your banking and shopping accounts. Even if you don’t think they’ve been compromised, it’s a great way to start the year on the right (secure) foot.

The holidays can be expensive, but a bad cyber decision can leave a financial hangover that lasts for months – if not years. These simple steps can help you avoid getting taken and spending way more than you planned on Christmas. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter for other tips to help you stay safe during the holidays.

Written by: Sarah Nicholas

Sarah is the Director of Communications for Serendipity Communications. She lives in Plainwell, Michigan with her husband, daughters and stepson, with twin stepdaughters nearby. She is passionate about cyber safety education for children and enjoys ballet dancing, reading and volunteering at her children’s school.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Ameris Bank is not affiliated with nor endorses F5 or Webroot.