How to Fight the Most Common Scams this Holiday Season
The holidays are not only the time for giving and receiving; for hackers and cyber criminals, it’s also the perfect time for taking.
Holiday fraud season, which begins on the weekend of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is fueled by consumers spending much more time – and money – than usual online. This leads to a cesspool for cyber criminals, who knowingly take advantage of online shoppers by sending out phishing email scams, money schemes and selling fraudulent gift cards.
With the National Retail Federation reporting online shopping to account for over 45 percent of shopping this holiday season, the market is ripe for hackers. This year’s Cyber Monday, which was deemed the highest U.S. ecommerce sales day in history, saw over $7.9 billion in revenue. Yet, Cyber Monday isn’t just a day for large profits to be made; in fact, retailers also lose significant amounts of revenue, too, with nearly $480,000 lost per hour as a result of cyber-attacks.
To avoid being scammed this holiday season, it is critical to be aware of cons as you shop, travel and celebrate with family and friends.
1. Be Alert to Christmas Scams
As the holidays are the busiest season for ecommerce, there are many different types of Christmas scams running amok online. These scams may include but are not limited to:
• Malicious websites and stores running credit card scams
• Charitable phishing scams – ‘Tis the season for giving, but don’t give to a scammer.
• Fake invoices – This is the time of year when people try to close out open invoices, meaning invoices are rife with scammers trying to take advantage of time-bound consumers.
• Auction fraud - Christmas is a busy season for buying and selling used goods at online auctions, which scammers are aware of and target regularly.
• Gift card scams
• Holiday job scams – Don’t get scammed when applying to work during “busy season,” as scammers use this time to harvest personal information from eager applicants.
2. Conduct Safe Online Shopping
As you shop around online, make sure you know where you’re buying from and avoid unknown websites. Extra caution should also be exercised if you decide to go ahead with ordering from foreign sites, especially ones based in China. The cheap prices might seem appealing, but you may never actually see your items.
Furthermore, it is important to use a secure internet connection when transacting credit card details. Avoid public hotspots; if you must connect to one, make sure you perform transactions using a secure VPN.
If possible, purchase with a card backed by insurance or some type of guarantee. If the worst does happen, recovering funds during the Christmas season will be easier, as companies will be used to dealing with scammers and remediating incidents.
3. Be Safe When Traveling
During the holiday season, you should avoid traveling to places where fraud and identity theft are rampant. If you are planning a trip, be mindful of hotel and restaurant flyer scams that advertise a great deal and ask for personal/credit card information to verify. Also, do not advertise that you are traveling with expensive items, such as cell phones, laptops and so forth.
If you confront any of these common holiday cons, you can protect your personal information and help others avoid the same scams by filing a complaint with the Internet Crime Complain Center (IC3) or the BBB Scam Tracker. As soon as you notice something fishy (or shall we say, phishy), you should quickly dispute or remediate the fraudulent activity.
This way, you can enjoy the holidays without being a victim of cybercrime.