The holidays are a time of joy and celebration and when cybercriminals are particularly active. Bad actors will take advantage of busy and distracted victims, clearing out the toys under the virtual Christmas tree like the digital Grinch. To ensure a safe and secure season, it’s crucial to be aware of common holiday cyber scams and how to identify and avoid them.
One of the most prevalent cyber scams is the Package Delivery Scam. Cybercriminals send phishing emails and texts that appear to be from well-known delivery services like UPS, FedEx, or USPS. These emails often contain notifications about incoming or missed deliveries, creating a sense of urgency. The links in these messages lead to phony websites designed to steal personal information or download malware onto your device.
Tip 1: To avoid falling victim to this scam, verifying the legitimacy of any delivery notifications by contacting the delivery service directly using official contact information rather than clicking on links in the email is important.
Gift Card Scams are another common holiday fraud. Scammers often send emails or texts that appear to be from someone you know, such as a colleague or executive at your company. They might request that you purchase multiple gift cards for a work-related function. These scammers play on the trust and sense of responsibility many people feel during the holiday season.
Tip 2: To avoid this scam, verifying the request’s authenticity is essential by contacting the individual directly through a trusted communication method, such as a phone call.
Social Media Scams are on the rise during the holidays. Cybercriminals create enticing offers that appear unusually generous to lure people into clicking on links that lead to phishing websites or downloading malware. These scams often spread through social media platforms, where users may not be as cautious as they are with email.
Tip 3: To avoid falling for social media scams, exercise caution when clicking on links, especially those promising extravagant deals. Verify the legitimacy of the offer by visiting the company’s official website or contacting them through their official customer support channels.
Online Shopping Scams are another significant threat this time of year. Scammers create bogus websites and social media campaigns that impersonate major brands to entice people to spend money on products they’ll never receive. Many fake offers are vehicles for harvesting credit card numbers and other personal data that criminals use for identity theft or selling on the dark web.
Tip 4: To avoid falling for online shopping scams, always purchase from reputable websites and double-check the website’s URL for any variations or misspellings. Use secure payment methods and avoid entering personal information on suspicious websites.
Charity Scams are particularly malicious, preying on the holiday spirit of giving. Scammers make bogus phone calls, often spoofing legitimate charities’ phone numbers or creating fake charities to try to steal money or personal information.
Tip 5: Donate to trusted, well-known charities to avoid becoming a victim of holiday charity scams. Always verify a charity’s legitimacy through its official website. If you have doubts, you can check with organizations like Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
In addition to being aware of common holiday cyber scams, it’s essential to know how to identify phishing emails, a standard tactic cybercriminals use all year. These emails trick people into giving away sensitive information or downloading malware. Here are some tips to help you identify phishing emails and avoid the risks they pose:
- Be wary of emails from unknown senders. If you receive an email from an unknown sender, especially one that asks for personal information or contains a suspicious link, it’s best to delete it. Legitimate organizations usually contact you through official channels.
- Check the sender’s email address. Scammers often use email addresses that look similar to legitimate ones, with subtle differences. Check the sender’s email address carefully for spelling mistakes or unusual characters.
- Be cautious of emails with urgent or threatening language. Phishing emails often use this language to manipulate you into acting quickly without thinking. If an email seems overly urgent or threatening, be skeptical and verify its authenticity before taking action.
- Check for spelling and grammar mistakes. Phishing emails typically contain spelling and grammar mistakes. Multiple errors in an email are a significant red flag that it might be a scam.
- Don’t click on suspicious links or download attachments. If an email contains a suspicious link or attachment, don’t click on it or download it. These links and attachments can contain malware that will infect your computer and steal your personal information.
- Be cautious of emails that ask for personal information. Legitimate companies will never ask for sensitive information, such as your social security number or credit card details, via email. If you receive an email requesting such information, it’s almost certainly a phishing attempt.
Awareness and diligence are your best defenses against these common threats. Understanding cybercriminals’ tactics to attack their victims is crucial to thwarting them. Recognizing the warning signs and adhering to best practices can safeguard you and your loved ones from these malicious schemes.
This holiday season, remember that staying cyber-smart is the best gift you can give to ensure a safe and joyful celebration. As always, LibertyID is here to help if you do fall victim to any of these scams or want to limit your chances of fraud ahead of time.
LibertyID provides expert, full-service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.
*LibertyID defines an extended family as you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.