Holiday scams — annual alert

This time of year brings, as usual, the need to be particularly alert for cybercrime. PC World’s article “10 sneaky holiday phishing scams to watch out for” lists some common scams.

  • Fake purchase invoices
  • Fake shipping notifications (with malware links)
  • Unexpected deals or product promotions from stores or sellers you have never dealt with
  • Phishing — false claims and spoofs asking for personal information (with bogus links and Web page addresses)
  • Fake surveys

These scams rely on you being distracted and conned by coincidence. For example, “if you just placed an order that shipped via UPS, and then you get a zipped virus with the vague wording about your recent order being delayed, you may be more likely to click it.”

Other scams which I see regularly involve offers of free gift cards from a major retailer. Such messages are sent out by the millions. You may even have made a recent purchase from the presented retailer, with a hook like “Congratulations on your recent [retailer name] purchase.”

Other scams involve surveys, sometimes regarding a supposed purchase. Remember that when you reveal personal information, scammers can use that information for even more genuine-looking phishing messages.

Survey emails sent out promising some sort of money or gift card in exchange for completing it can end up being a scam. Often the surveys are very short and generic, but at the end they may ask for some personal information. This can be what the attackers are really after. By gathering this information, they can use it to further a more advanced phishing attack.

As always, monitoring your bank accounts for recent transactions is good practice.

So, if you’re having a hectic day and checking your email, pause a moment when any message deals with the above situations. Reality check vaguely worded subjects or generic messages asking for personal information. Don’t assume a connection which may not be there — to a recent purchase or contact.

PC World’s article “11 security basics that keep you safe from holiday tech dangers” also offers some helpful tips.