The holiday season means something different to each person. For many people, it is a time to get together with friends and family and reflect on the year. For others, it is a time to enjoy excellent food, share gifts, and take time off from work.
Unfortunately, cyber criminals view the holiday season differently. They view it as a time to scam others and rob them of their money. The terrible thing about cyber criminals is that they capitalize on confusion, emotion, and distress. Therefore, cyber criminals have already increased their activity during the pandemic.
Phishing scams, direct theft, and malware threats are higher than ever. It is up to each individual to be aware of potential scams and take steps to protect themselves. Businesses can support their customers by making sure that they are taking cybersecurity seriously. This includes encouraging the creation of strong passwords for e-commerce accounts, and implementing multi-factor authentication.
Holiday season is known for a season where scammers take advantage of shoppers that are unaware of dangers that lurk around. Online shopping can expose you to fraud unless you know ways to protect yourself. The Government of Canada created a simple guide on how to handle online shopping scams keeping in mind that online shopping scams is not an issue to be taken lightly.
Gary Stevens, a senior IT consultant on HostingCanada’s Web Services Team, offers this advice:
“The first step is to learn how to recognize a trusted source. A trusted source is the one that uses high-quality and secure Canadian web hosting solution (for Canada-based firms), enables multi-factor authentication, is highly encrypted, has its physical location and contact information, has terms of sale, shipping, complaints, and so on. “
Protecting yourself from online shopping scams during the holiday season is a real challenge, but it’s easy to overcome once you learn how to protect yourself.
If you are not careful, you could end up taking a financial hit during the holiday season by giving your money away to scammers. The following are five holiday-related scams you should know and the steps you can take to protect yourself.
1. Gift Giving Pyramid Scams
Gift giving pyramid scams are a holiday staple. The way the scenario plays out is that you are on social media and one of your friends posts about a virtual gift exchange. If you purchase a present from a website for them, you will receive 10 presents in return.
It sounds good, right? Well, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The trick here is to get people to think that if they spend a small amount of money on something, they will get something of greater value. And while some people might receive the gifts, once people stop buying gifts, the train of gifts comes to a halt. This means there are a ton of people who spend money on a present for someone, but they get nothing in return.
2. Virtual Phony Events
During the holiday season, organizations will usually hold fundraisers, carnivals, or other events designed to gather money that can be given to the poor. This year, because of COVID-19 pandemic, such in person gatherings have disappeared. However, some organizations have set up legitimate virtual gatherings that allow people to donate money to help those less fortunate, just like many businesses moved their communication to the virtual space by using the best cloud-based platforms for launching and recording webinars.
Unfortunately, scammers have been creating fake virtual events and charging people to enter them. They prey on people’s goodwill. If you get invited to a virtual event, do your research before paying anything. You might think that risking five dollars or $10 hoping to support a good cause is no big thing. However, cyber criminals will often rope people in with small amounts and then get them to pay larger amounts later.
3. Scam Online Stores
Everyone wants to save a little money. Times are tight, so deal shopping is important. Cyber criminals capitalize on this need by creating false advertising and fake websites. They entice people by claiming to offer the must-have item of the year at a price that is a fraction of what legitimate sellers are offering it for.
If it is too good to be true, it usually is. Pay close attention to the web address in your browser. Scammers like to create look-alike websites that at first glance look to be legitimate. Check the spelling and grammar of the business name. Make sure that the website you visit has legitimate contact information.
You only want to shop with trustworthy sellers. If a business that you are not familiar with is offering an expensive product at a fraction of the price, do your due diligence and research. Never put your personal credit card information on a website that is not secure.
Finally, check the price before you buy. Scam online retailers may say that they have the best price. However, when you click the pay button, the price you are charged and the price you thought you were going to pay are drastically different.
To this end, it is best to make an online purchase with a credit card. If you use a debit card, you may not have any recourse for getting money back if you were scammed. Credit card companies usually have protections in place so that you don’t lose money.
4. Questionable Email Scams
Phishing scams work because they have a touch of truth in them. A phishing scam might be tailored to you by offering you products and services from online retailers you frequent. They might even have information about you, like your name, previous purchases, etc.
A questionable email may direct you to download an app for an online retailer you frequent. The app may look legitimate, but really it is harvesting data. Other email scams that are prevalent during the holidays are scams that tell you that your Amazon, eBay, or Best Buy.com account is on the verge of being closed if you do not confirm personal details. However, as soon as you confirm the details, you have given your credentials to scammers.
5. Sob Stories on Social Media
During the holiday season, people are in a charitable mood. Bad actors take advantage of social media sites to make illegitimate appeals for help. As the holiday season gets closer, you need to be aware of sob stories shared on social media. Many of them are not legitimate.
This doesn’t mean that a person needs to be a Scrooge and not help the poor. What it does mean is that you should do your due diligence before handing money over to unknown individuals to help with unconfirmed sob stories.
There are accounts of individuals raising hundreds of thousands of dollars on social media using false stories about helping homeless individuals, helping vets, or helping pets. If your heart impels you to give money, it might be best to stick to individuals you know personally or those with whom you have a personal connection.
Cybercriminals and scammers play on emotions. They use fear, anxiety, greed, and hope to get people to make decisions they would not make otherwise. You can protect yourself from holiday scams this holiday season if you keep your eyes open. Only visit trusted marketplaces. Don’t believe everything you read on social media. Verify emails before you click links. By taking these simple steps, you can stop nefarious online scams in their tracks.