Holiday Scams: ‘Tis the Season to Stay Protected

When there are holidays, there are scams. ‘Tis the season to protect yourself even more so than before due to the increase in scams. In 2019, there were reported to be over 6,000 fake apps with slogans and trademarks posing as popular retailers and there were about 65 websites doing to exact same thing. Cyberthreats typically increase more between Black Friday and Christmas due to the increase in online shopping, but there are a number of ways we can protect ourselves during the holiday season.

Ways to protect yourself include:

-Shopping on reliable websites and getting there safe (use retailers that you know and trust, don’t trust deals too good to be true)

-Beware of seasonal scams (look for fake tracking emails, e-cards and emails requesting confirmation)

-Always think twice before clicking on links or opening attachments (when in doubt, throw it out; use known trusted URL’s instead of clicking on the link)

-Keep clean machines (make sure your devices are update-to-date and patched before using your credit card with them)

-Look for https:// before making a payment (avoid http, it’s not secure)

-Check your credit card and bank statement regularly (stay safe with text alerts and checking your credit report annually)

-Secure your home wifi (check for and perform firmware updates on a routine basis)

-Get savvy about wifi hotspot and public computers (treat all devices as compromised; set devices to “ask” before joining new wireless networks

-Disable Bluetooth when not in use (avoid being intercepted by thieves)

-Protect your password (use a long and strong password and use multifactor authentication (MFA) if possible)

Two Common Christmas Scams:

1.) Robocalling- a phone call that autodials to send pre-recorded messages (used to gather information and request payment for a debt that one may not own)

2.) Fake online charities- used to collect financial data and money from users

Robocalling is used by cybercriminals to create a more advanced scam. Robocallers have the ability to change the caller ID in order for a user to pick-up their phone and engage in conversation to expose information. Cybercriminals are then able to understand who to target based on the information provided from the robocall and/or the fake online charity. In both instance, the cybercriminal will able to perform social engineering (gathering much needed information to get what they need) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) (a machine that has the ability to think and work like a human) once they get the information they need from the robocall or fake online charity.

Other Safety Tips:

Say bye-bye to robocalls and download the app RoboKiller to stop the robocalls

Go directly to the source site (avoid clicking on the link)

Hover over links to verify the URL (hovering over the link allows one to see a link preview, if the link doesn’t match the URL listed then it’s fake)

Use a comprehensive security solution (helps with providing safe web browsing, virus protection and more)

Avoid the “Secret Sister” scam on FB (it’s a pyramid scheme; sisters are sending money to someone they don’t know and never receive a gift or money back because they all are sending money to the same person)

Enable purchase alerts on all credit cards

Disable international purchases on credit cards/debit cards (only if you are not traveling internationally)

Only make purchases on your home network (never use public Wi-Fi for purchases)

Do not send cash or wire money for payment (use a credit card or gift card)

Overall, cybercriminals are looking for ways to make money and gather information to use it for their benefit. As users have to better secure our self by following the safety tips on how to stay secure and understand that anyone can be a victim. Shopping during the holiday season make one more vulnerable because the average user may not know what to search for when shopping such as https in the hyperlink (helps ensure the transaction is secure), suspicious links (hovering over the link to see the address of the link (in the bottom left hand corner), as well as researching the charity you intend on donating to in order to avoid fraudulent activity from occurring within your account. By keeping your devices updated and taking extra steps to avoid being a victim your assets and etc. can remain safe.


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