Holiday scammers target social media sites

Robert Schacht

The holiday shopping season is in full swing.

But while you're searching the stores for that perfect present, online hackers are busy searching the web for a very different kind of gift â" your personal information.

There's nothing new about internet predators looking to scam their way into your computer but this year, they've found new targets â" social media.

Robert Schacht of Albany Computer says that the same free and fast exchange of information that makes sites like Facebook and Twitter so popular also make them very vulnerable.

"Where the people live at, their names, their relatives, their friends, that way they're able to send information out to other accounts without them being known of," said Schacht.

While social networking sites typically do not contain sensitive information like social security numbers, credit card numbers, or bank accounts, hacking into them may provide a gateway into a user's complete computer record.

Your best defense begins and ends with the strength of your password.

"The longer, the better," said Schacht. "Also, don't use a very simple one, just nothing but letters. Use some numbers in there, even special characters â" asterisk, pound signs."

And don't use the same password for multiple sites â" keep them unique and store a written copy of all your passwords in a safe place.

Even after you've done everything you can to protect yourself from online hackers, there's still the old fashioned way of accessing someone's personal information â" regular mail. Snail mail is just as vulnerable to information predators as the internet â" maybe even more.

Guy Outlaw of Ezee Copy recommends paying bills online, providing you follow proper security guidelines.

He strongly discourages using regular mail to send gifts â" including gift cards.

"Send it out through FedEx and UPS," said Outlaw. "That way, you've got an extra bit of security that it's trusted and you know it's going to get where it's got to go."

All sensitive documentation should be shredded and be wary of any charitable solicitations â" scammers often try to take advantage of the generous spirit of the holidays.