The holidays no doubt can offer many of us some respite from this chaotic year. However, the season also creates an opportunistic time for cybercriminals to take advantage of your good cheer and deliver some real damage to your personal finance credentials.
Pandemic shopping habits mean more of us are going to be online during this season. Adobe Analytics predicts consumers are going to spend a record-breaking $189 billion during this holiday shopping season. With this record-breaking online spending, you need to arm yourself with the knowledge to sniff out cyber-schemes to help you not become a victim.
Holiday phishing schemes are a threat to businesses and consumers alike. From fake offers and notices that flood your e-mails, mobile devices and social media sites — your best line of defense this season is to be aware of the type of scams hackers can use. In a phishing scam, the victim receives an email or text message directing them to enter payment information or other personal details on a fraudulent website, which is often designed to look just like a legitimate site.
So, what should you be looking out for this holiday season? Experts say there are three very likely scams to target users.
Beware of the fake e-mail.
Scam artists are getting so good at creating realistic-looking phishing emails that some are getting past Gmail’s spam filters. Although most of us have been trained to spot suspicious email messages, some may look like they could be from legitimate and familiar companies. Once opened, the email prompts the unsuspecting recipient to provide their login credentials on a malicious website. Once logged in, hackers can have access to the victim’s entire account, enabling them to make purchases or, even worse, steal the victim’s credit card information.
As attackers become increasingly sophisticated, the quality of phishing emails is improving, making them harder to spot.
Don’t fall victim to fake shipping notices.
Along the line of fake e-mails, fake shipping notices are designed to look authentic and are another scam that increases over the holiday season. After all, with so many shipping notices coming in during the holiday shopping spree, you are more likely to click on something you wouldn’t normally click on. It’s easy to overlook the authenticity of a notice and fall victim to fraud.
The threat of fake social media ads increases.
Be cautious of discount deals that come through your social media. While these types of deals can come through your email, some campaigns are coming through social media avenues, such as your Facebook or Instagram accounts. These deals are designed like they are too good to miss. In the holiday shopping frenzy, it’s understandable that you might be tempted to click.
Despite the sophistication of phishing schemes, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself this holiday season.
- Never open an unsolicited email attachment, unless you have confirmed the validity of the sender. The first thing you should always check before clicking on links in an email is to verify the sender’s email address. Taking a second look at the address bar to see what site you are really at can save you from falling for a phishing page.
- Do not click on advertisement links that either transfer you to another site or prompt you to download apps for special offers. These may contain malware, ransomware or other vulnerabilities that can expose your desktop or mobile devices.
- Change the passwords to any accounts you suspect may have been impacted. Make sure your new credentials are strong and unique from your other logins. Keep an eye on your bank accounts and make sure to verify the purchases made. It only takes one store that you shop at to give scammers the chance to drain your bank account.
- Consider using identity theft protection. Monitoring your credit report and identity for suspicious activity also is important. Active monitoring helps you spot identity theft, so you can act quickly if you become a victim.