‘Tis the season for cybercriminals to be on the prowl!  As you’re busy preparing your holiday shopping lists, they’re busy devising cunning strategies to exploit unsuspecting online shoppers.  Unfortunately, holiday phishing scams have become an all-too-common threat, aiming to pilfer personal information, financial data and even identities from innocent customers.  Stay vigilant and protect yourself from these malicious schemes!

In order to ensure that your holiday season is not ruined by cybercriminals, we have provided information on some of the most prevalent and hazardous scams, including how they operate and tips to prevent falling prey to them.

Understanding Holiday Phishing Scams:

Cybercriminals use phishing as a deceitful method to obtain sensitive information like passwords, credit card details, or Social Security numbers from individuals.  During the holiday season, these scams often take on a festive disguise, tricking victims with holiday-themed emails, messages, and websites.  If you’re purchasing gifts for clients or loved ones, it’s important to be aware of the common tactics used by holiday phishing scammers:

  1. Holiday-Themed Emails: Fraudsters often disguise themselves as reputable sources such as popular retailers or well-known charities.  These deceptive emails may seem genuine and entice you with counterfeit holiday offers, purchase confirmations, or donation requests.  However, be cautious as these emails typically contain links that direct you to fraudulent websites designed to steal your information, funds, or even infect your computer with harmful malware.
  2. Fake Promotions: Cybercriminals often use fake holiday promotions and discounts to lure unsuspecting victims into clicking on links or downloading attachments that contain malware or lead to phishing websites.  These promotions may seem too good to be true and are often sent from spoof email accounts.In addition to installing malware, cybercriminals may also attempt to steal your money by duplicating popular retailer websites or setting up their own.  Victims who make purchases on these sites will have their money collected but will never receive their order.  These fraudulent sites can be difficult to track, making it challenging to recover lost funds.
  3. Delivery Notifications: During the holiday season, scammers take advantage of the rise in online shopping by sending fraudulent delivery notifications.  These emails falsely claim that a package is en route or that there’s an issue with an order.  They often include links or attachments that can infect recipients’ devices with harmful software.
  4. Social Engineering: Scammers often use social engineering tactics to deceive individuals, particularly seniors and young teenagers into providing money or personal information.  They may impersonate friends or family members through email or social media, pretending to be in a holiday emergency or requesting a gift exchange.  This scam takes advantage of the victims’ trust and lack of awareness about fake profiles.

Recognizing and Avoiding Holiday Phishing Scams:

It is crucial to be aware of the tactics used in holiday phishing scams and learn how to identify and prevent becoming a target.

  1. Verify The Sender: Always verify the sender’s email address or domain to avoid any potential risks. Be cautious of any misspelled or suspicious email addresses. Legitimate companies and organizations typically use official domains for their communication.
  2. Don’t Click On Suspicious Links: Before clicking on any links, hover your mouse over them to see the actual URL they lead to. Be cautious of shortened links or URLs that don’t match the sender’s domain. If you’re unsure, type the URL directly into your browser to visit the website.
  3. Beware Of Urgency And Pressure: Scammers may create a false sense of urgency, utilizing limited time offers or imminent problems. Prioritize verifying the authenticity of any claims before making any decisions or taking action.
  4. Double-Check Websites: It is important to verify the security of a website before providing any personal or financial information. Check for the presence of “https://” in the URL, a padlock symbol in the address bar, and a valid SSL certificate.
  5. Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Enable 2FA wherever possible to enhance security measures, particularly for online shopping and banking accounts. By enabling 2FA, you add an additional layer of protection, even in the event of a compromised password.
  6. Educate Yourself And Others: It is important to keep up to date with the latest phishing techniques and spread this information to those around you. The more individuals who are knowledgeable about these tactics, the more difficult it will be for scammers to carry out their schemes successfully.
  7. Protect Personal Information: To ensure the safety of your sensitive information, refrain from sharing it through email or text messages, regardless of the apparent legitimacy of the request. Instead, utilize secure channels for such communication.

During the holiday season, it is important to stay alert and cautious about holiday phishing scams.  Cybercriminals take advantage of the festive atmosphere and the rise in online activity during this period.  By being aware of the signs of phishing attempts and implementing online security measures, you can safeguard yourself and your loved ones, ensuring a secure and enjoyable holiday season.

Business owners: If your staff will be ordering gifts online for clients, be sure that they know how to spot a phishing attack and that your network is adequately protected in case any malicious emails slip through.  It is crucial to safeguard your organization from potential harm while spreading holiday cheer.  If you aren’t sure if you’re protected, please give us a call or schedule a 10-minute discovery session with our team.  We can help give you peace of mind this holiday season.  Click here to book now, and Happy Holidays!