The holiday time is one of the best times of the year. Everyone is generally, very cheerful. However, some people, cybercriminals to be exact, like to ruin the fun for everyone. Protect yourself this holiday season by getting familiar with popular holiday scams to watch out for.
Fake shopping websites
As the holidays fast approach, your online shopping will ramp up. You’ll start seeing ads for websites offering crazy deals on items, travel or experiences. Be weary of what websites you’re visiting. Websites should have a lock in the URL to let you know that it is a secure website. If the website is not secure, you could be at risk of a virus or hack.
Before downloading an unfamiliar app, do your research. Read comments, ratings and look it up online. Rule of thumb: if you’re still not sure about an apps safety, do not download it! It is always better to be safe than sorry.
You’ve heard the saying, nothing in life is free. Although this isn’t 100% true, it is a good mindset to have during the season of scams. Seeing an ad online or pop-up for a “free gift” is bad news. Click out of your browser immediately and avoid clicking the banner.
During the holidays, charities will often ramp up their marketing as the season often encourages people to give more. When donating to a charity, be very mindful of exactly what website you’re on and how you got there. The safest way to donate online is to type the web address into your browser. By doing so, you will know for certain that you are on the correct, secure page. Remember to check the URL for that small lock!
Gift card scams
This often is a very common holiday scam and unfortunately, the target is normally senior citizens. These scams take place online, over the phone or even in person. Often times, the cybercriminal will ask the victim to buy gift cards (of a certain amount) and tells them they will pay them back. This scam is often seen through emails as well, which brings us to our next scam.
As per usual, email scams are still prevalent among cybercriminals. Commonly known as phishing. Although many email servers do a good job of filtering out spam mail, some may still slip by those filters. An important thing to note, cybercriminals have the ability to appear as someone else over email. You may receive an email that looks like it is coming from someone you know, but in reality, it is a scam. However, if you look closely there is generally something misspelled or a word used incorrectly. If you ever receive an email at an unusual time or one asking for any sort of money, delete it. If you don’t recognize the email and the subject seems phishy, don’t open it and just delete it. Never click any links in an email unless you can say without a doubt you know it is from a safe source. It can be tempting, but don’t respond to these spam messages. We think this point is so important that we wrote an entire blog post about it.
Text message scams
So, you’ve heard of phishing, now there is smishing to worry about. It’s no surprise that cybercriminals have moved from emails to text messages. Often times these will be from random numbers or an email containing a link or some form of a call to action. They often times pose as your bank or a subscription service you subscribe to. To avoid falling for these schemes, you should become familiar with how your bank, or subscription service can contact you. On their website they should list what number a text would come from. For example, Wells Fargo has an entire page dedicated to detecting a phishing email or smishing text message. Once you can verify that it is spam, delete it. If you receive a text message stating that an account of yours is at risk, go to the actual website and login that way instead of clicking the link in the text. This link will often bring you to a fake website that will harvest your information.
Our goal at UMSA is to keep you informed of the latest trends in all things security and risk management. Check out our blog or our WebTacks series to continue your education. If you’re a student, our scholarship program is currently accepting applications, apply today!