Updated: May 19, 2020
For many of us, the end of the year is a time of giving – of helping one another and sharing joy and good will with friends and family. Unfortunately, it can also be a time for increased cyber-crime, so being alert is your best defense. Following are some common tricks to be aware of so that the scammers don’t steal your joy.
Fake Shipping Invoices
When you are purchasing gifts online for a number of people, it can be easy to lose track of the items you’ve ordered. One common scam sends emails randomly with phony shipping invoices. The sender hopes that you will open the attachment and download the malware. Or, the invoice may contain a link that will take you to a website where you will be asked to provide your personal information. If you receive an email with an invoice for an item you don’t remember purchasing, don’t open it. Report it as a phishing scam and delete the email.
Gift Card Scams
Gift cards are surging in popularity across the U.S. Consumers are expected to spend $30 billion in gift cards this year alone. While they are convenient, they also provide scammers with multiple ways to exploit them.
For example, you might get an email asking you to check the balance of a gift card. Once you go to the website, they will ask for your card number and pin. Then with the information you have provided, the scammers are able to deplete the funds on the card. How can you be sure if it’s legitimate? Always take care to only check your balance on the actual business website listed on the back of your gift card.
Another technique that scammers use is to go into physical stores and note the numbers and security codes of gift cards which are on display. They then monitor these cards online, wait until they are activated, and quickly use all funds available. To be safe, check the packaging of a gift card before you purchase to make sure it has not been tampered with. In addition, try to avoid buying cards from the front of the rack as it is easier for thieves to scan them.
E-Cards and E-Invites
There’s no denying the convenience of sending holiday cards and party invitations via email. Unfortunately, it’s also a great opportunity to run phishing scams. Cybercriminals can create them to try to entice you to download an attachment or click on a link which will install malware or a virus on your computer. If you receive an e-card or e-invite from an unknown sender, be safe and don’t click on it.
Holidays are a wonderful time to help people in need. But when you are donating to charity, make sure it’s going to the right cause. For sophisticated cyber-criminals, it is very easy to create a legitimate-looking website and create funnels for siphoning money electronically. It is best to stick to charities you know well, but if there is a cause you want to support, always check their reputation before donating. You can use sites like the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org to read reviews. Other sites like GuideStar.org and CharityNavigator.org also maintain relevant information about nonprofit organizations.
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