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Here is a not so fun festive fact: 1 in 4 people fell victim to fraud during last year’s holiday season. Regardless of what holidays you may personally celebrate during this time, the reality is that this time of year sees an increase in fraud and cybercrime. Scammers know that many of us are looking for bargains, are in a rush and that we might just have our guard down a bit more than usual. But it’s not all doom and gloom! Global Information Security is here to bring you the gift of cybersecurity knowledge – practical tips that can help protect you and your family during this busy time of year.
Top 5 festive frauds to watch out for
The first step to avoiding festive fraud is to know how to spot a scam when you see one. This isn’t always easy – the scammers will target you with season-specific content that is designed to look as real and as appealing as possible.
Here are five scams you are likely to see:
Fake delivery notifications: Since the pandemic hit, we have all likely received an influx of deliveries to our homes or other personal addresses. The scammers are aware of this and use this to their advantage by sending fake delivery notifications in the hopes you are waiting on something to come. Every delivery notification should be treated with a high degree of caution. If you use a reputable retailer, you should be able to track your packages on your own and not need to click on links in emails or text messages.
Fake shopping sites and sellers: We know the story. Little Jamie really wants the must-have toy for 2021, but it is sold out everywhere. Your desperate Google search throws up a site that miraculously has stock; the holidays have been saved! Unfortunately, the odds are that the offer is too good to be true. If you make the purchase, you’ll be left with a lighter bank balance, identity theft and a very disappointed child. The holiday season is not the time to try out new shopping sites or buy from untrusted sellers. It isn’t worth the risk!
Fake gift cards and vouchers: You just received a gift card unexpectedly. How lovely! But is it real? Fake gift cards, vouchers and coupons are another favoured ploy of scammers. Another technique is to ask you to pay in gift cards only – this is always a scam.
Fake charities: When the rest of us are thinking about giving, the cyber scammers are focusing on taking. They will use any means possible, including posing as a charity, to take advantage of your good nature and extract your hard-earned cash from your pocket.
Fake travel offers: This time of year sees a big rise in people booking travel – whether it’s to get home for the holidays or as a treat for the new year. The scammers know this and are great at creating irresistible (but fake) travel offers.
How to avoid the scams
Now that we know what to look for, what can we do to protect ourselves and our families? There are some simple practical tips you can follow:
Be suspicious: A little bit of suspicion goes a long way. Be on the lookout for anything unexpected, urgent requests that trigger your emotions and tempting offers. Double-check the URL of the site you are visiting.
Do your research: If buying from a site or seller you haven’t used before, do yourself a favour and take a few minutes to do some research before clicking the ‘buy’ button. Find out if the company is reputable, by using a review site like Trust Pilot or if in the United States – the Better Business Bureau. Take time to fully read the description of what you are buying. In 2020 some very disappointed eBay customers received photos of the latest PS5 console rather than the console itself. The rushed buyers didn’t read the description, which included the very important detail that it was a photo of the console that was for sale, not the console itself.
Choose your payment methods carefully: Credit cards often provide greater protections when it comes to fraud. Also consider using a virtual card, which ties to your same card account, but uses a different number. If possible, designate a single card for online purchases and keep it at a lower credit limit. Another way to protect yourself is to use a trusted payment site, like PayPal. That way you aren’t sharing your card number and you have another party to contest your purchase if something goes wrong.
Set up alerts on your banking/accounts: If you do become the victim of fraud, having banking alerts set up will help you spot it sooner, allowing you to limit the potential damage.
Spread the word: Talk to your friends and family about scams that are out there and the simple steps they can take to protect themselves. It could be the best gift you give them this year!
We hope these tips help you and your loved ones have a happy holiday season. Watch this short video about staying safe during the holidays and read the SANS Shopping Online Securely OUCH Newsletter for even more tips from the security industry.