The holiday season is finally upon us! It’s time to roll out the holly, spread some joy, and give thanks by enriching our loved ones with gifts galore.
But wait, not everyone wants to spread good cheer. In fact, this is exactly the time when cyber criminals are fast at work. Hackers see those acts of giving, combined with the quick-paced holiday season, as vulnerabilities and easy targets for their scams. Don’t let them steal your holiday money! Let’s revisit the scams from last year to prepare for a surge of recycled and updated holiday scams that’s coming our way…
Black Friday/Cyber Monday
The busiest online shopping days of the year, by far, are Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Hackers create fake ads that claim outrageous deals that seems too good to be true. And they most likely are. Their scams are actually malware created to steal your money rather than save you money.
Ads that post coupons offering complimentary watches, phones, or tablets should always raise red flags. These offers will entice targets with freebies to get them to input personal information. Don’t fall for it. Make sure the ads are from legitimate companies. Always.
We receive so many packages during this season – of course the hackers will dive into this opportunity as well. Hackers will send out emails or texts alerting that you have received a package from FedEx, UPS, or US Mail. The alert asks you to input personal information – but don’t! You’ve already given your information to the website, why would you need to do it again?
These emails claim that a “wrong transaction” has occurred and asks you to “click for refund.” These scams can come from what looks like Amazon, a hotel, or a retail chain. But, if you click on it, rather than receiving a refund, you have now received malware.
Malicious E-cards are sent by the millions, and especially to offices. The email subject line usually reads “Happy Holidays,” and has an attachment that resembles an e-greeting card. Don’t open it! It is not from a friend or distant relative. Resist that urge to click!
Example: A Facebook ad offering a complimentary $1,000 Best Buy gift card to the first 20,000 people who sign up for a Best Buy fan page. Hmmm. Hackers create fake gift card promotions to collect personal information and then sell to other hackers. And why would they buy this information? Two words: Identity theft. This should make you think twice before filling anything out online. Don’t give the bad guys your info!
Watch out for any fake charities that ask for your contribution via phone, email, text, and tweets, and make sure they are legitimate. Also, contact your charity to make sure the request did in fact come from them. Only donate to charities you already know, and refuse all the rest.
Example: You’re looking for a specific holiday gift, so you decide to tweet about it. You get a direct message (DM) from another twitter user offering to sell you one. Be cautious, though – this could be a scam. Especially if you do not know that person, be careful and never pay up front.
Work-from-home scams run rapid during the holiday season. Make sure not to fill out online forms that ask for confidential information like your Social Security number – you can get your identity stolen!
Be wary of using free Wi-Fi signals at public places. Hackers can steal your credit card information while you’re shopping at the mall – so you end up doing the opposite of saving during the holidays.
As the holidays inch closer, people can become frantic when it comes to buying gifts. Hackers understand this and will do everything to get you to click on “their links”. Be careful and don’t let these cyber scrooges ruin your holidays.