‘Tis the season of holiday scams!

It’s a sad reality, really… that every year crooks take advantage of the holiday season—using fake websites, emails, and other nasty tricks of their unsavory trade to steal your personal information. And with more and more holiday shopping being conducted online, the Cybersecurity Grinches are finding more and more ways to take advantage of this new-found shopping convenience. Don’t get caught with your pants around your ankles this holiday season! The following are some things to look out for as you shop around for “presentos” this year.

  • The Pop-up Loser.
    1. Dangerous links, phony holiday contests, and bogus gift cards designed to steal your personal information is always rife during the festive season.

Tip: If a deal or advertisement looks too good to be true, it most likely is. Seriously, don’t click links, go straight to the retailer’s site.

  • Cold-Hearted Charities. Watch out for fake charities that could reach you via email… or ones that are shared virally through social media (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter).Tip: Look for the seal and trust mark on a charity’s website before throwing cash around. ‘Tis the season of giving… but some “charities” are more into taking.
  • The Online Illness. With online shopping becoming a hot new trend during the holidays, the risk of contracting a nasty virus from a dodgy shipping notification or phishing scam is a high possibility… IF you aren’t careful!Tip: Instead of clicking on links all willy-nilly, go directly to the site and enter your tracking number.
  • No Holiday Cheer Here. Christmas apps, Christmas apps… they can get you hacked! Ok, that’s a little cheesy… but completely true! With the plethora of Christmas apps available, make sure that you only download apps from trusted sources.Tip: If the app requests too many permissions… do NOT download it. It may be requesting access to info on your phone that should remain private.
  • Department Store Dangers. It is an unfortunate reality of today that some scams are simply…. unavoidable. Some of the recent point-of-sale scams that have impacted big companies, and their customers, are a perfect example.Tip: It’s really a good idea to check your credit card statements on a regular basis.
  • Swipe N’ Snag. ATM skimming devices are all the rave for holiday scammers during the Christmas season. And if you’re swiping that credit card left and right as you nab up all those Christmas presents… you could be in danger.Tip: Keep a close eye on your surroundings when you are shopping and withdrawing money. If you see any loose wires or parts that may have been tampered with, don’t swipe your card.
  • E-card Angst. Family members can be a real pain to shop for… it’s why gift cards are so amazing! The problem is, hackers love to package up e-cards with bonus gifts in the form of viruses.Tip: Be wary of gift cards from unknown senders and only use well-known e-card sites. Emails claiming that you are the recipient of a tasty latte gift card might not be something you want to open!
  • Holiday Trip Horror. Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s nice to run away during the Christmas season! With Christmas travel being heavy during the holidays, online scammers are ready and waiting with fake travel links.Tip: Watch out for sites that request money or CC information. If you are renting a private holiday home, it’s prudent to triple check the address on the rental suite… just to ensure it is legitimate.
  • Curiosity Killed the Computer. Don’t recognize that USB stick in your Christmas bags? You probably didn’t benefit by accident…Tip: Avoid using USBs or external hard drives that you didn’t purchase yourself. The could come with undetectable malware that has been pre-installed on them.
  • The Phone Call Fake-out. “Hello, your credit card account has been compromised!” Who hasn’t received a phone call like this? Watch out for fake bank calls requesting personal info while stating that your account has been compromised.Tip: If you get a call from your bank regarding your account… ask to call them back. Hang up, and call them back from the official line. It’s only a quick Google search away.
  • Secure Your Stuff. Celebrating the holidays often involves a bit of boozy festivities… people are more likely to forget their smartphones.Tip: Keep your digital assets protected. Always enable locate-lock on your phone and keep your PIN protected at all times.
  • The Bogus Blog. Many news services love capitalizing on the holidays by developing “Year in Review” and “Best Presents to get your Loved One” articles. Unfortunately, Cyber Grinches also like to create phony sources for these “articles”. And the links they contain could infect and compromise the security of your computer, phone, and digital assets.Tip: Remember that not all of these stories are developed with pure intention. Watch out when visiting unknown URLs… as they could result in landing on phony websites designed to spread malware or steal your personal data.

For a bit more information on protecting yourself during the craze of holiday shopping… check out this podcast about cybersecurity for SMBs during the Christmas Holiday.