Holiday Shopping Scams.

‘Twas the week before Christmas, when the parent’s scrambled to rush and get online orders delivered on time.  The holiday season brings plenty of “one-day sales” and “offers of the year”, yet not all offers are legitimate, and some are pure fraud.  Cybercriminals are lurking throughout the web and within ads on your social media. They reel in gullible buyers with super discounted prices and spoofed content.  They also send phishing emails boasting of incredible deals, which can mesmerize even the most experienced shoppers. Their traps are hung on the Internet with care.  They attempt to take all of your money if you will share.

Not This Year

Commit to not be the victim this year.  The FBI warns people to take precautionary measures while online shopping this holiday season.  The scams are getting better and the scammers are becoming savvier when it comes to social engineering.  Scammers are infamous for running fake websites. Some of the sites are spoofed and closely resemble those of real brands.  This makes it easier to lure their victims.

Most often, shoppers receive unsolicited emails from thieves, providing convenient links to their website.  A click of the link brings you closer to the “discounted” prices. So, we click to save. Let’s be clear now, no one is giving you a free gift card through emails.  Be skeptical and chase the fraud in any offer. In many cases, it is as easy as looking at the email address the offer came from by viewing the email bar.

Never click a link.  Think of it as sticking your hand through a cage to pet a dog you have never met.  They might bite and might not. However, by not taking the chance you didn’t lose a finger.  Don’t get me wrong, the emails look very similar to authentic emails from real stores, and even cyber experts are sometimes duped.   

The auction sites are also a great way for these low-life schemers to wring you of every holiday penny that you’ve saved.  Have you ever seen a brand-new Apple laptop sell for less than half of its original price? Me either. How about gift cards being sold at incredibly discounted prices from third-party vendors?  

These types of offers should make you raise an eyebrow or two.  Odds are that whoever is trying to sell you these bargains on the internet is a cyber-criminal.  They are attempting to gain access to your bank accounts. Sticking to your gut and the old-fashioned “it seems too good to be true” mantra will do you good.  Crime only pays for Internet fraudsters when you participate as the mark.

Crooks like Mobile Too

Everyone is attached to their phones today, so of course, they’re going to try to reach you via text message.  The “One day only Holiday sale – act fast now” will definitely make you remember the day.  Just say “No, thank you.”

Help – What Do I Do?

For starters, don’t click on anything that doesn’t seem legitimate!  Use some common sense.  If it looks fake, it probably is.  We’re all way too familiar with logos, brands, and retail company emails, so we should be able to tell the difference between real and incredibly bogus emails.

For those scammers who are slightly advanced and go the extra mile to deceive shoppers, make them feel as though the jig is up.  Be careful to not click on pictures leading you to external websites. The criminal may not be trying to get your banking information put into websites.  They may be downloading malware on your computer to gain access to all of your data. The old phishing trick infested with malware is an effective method used by most online crooks.  When possible, it is recommended to run a virus scan before opening any attachments or files. Anti-virus software works 80% of the time. That means you are only 20% at risk of downloading a known signature.

Avoid filling out personal information, such as credit card number and address, on third-party vendor sites.  Yes, technically, all websites could be fake, but the small vendors are typically the ones with the least security measures set in place.  If they get hacked, which at the rate we’re going at now in 2018 – it is probable, your sensitive data will be compromised. Look for HTTPS on the web address.  The “s” stands for security.

Unfortunately, the holiday season brings out the worst in some people, even though it’s about spreading holiday cheer.  There are no guarantees you will not be a victim. So, go ahead and live. However, if you make sure to follow these holiday shopping tips, you are better off than most.  

Happy Holidays!

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