These Tricks Are No Treats

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy Public Domain Vectors
Halloween is supposed to be a night when kids and some adults don costumes to play at being something they’re not.  Whether the costume of choice is a superhero, a witch, a goblin, or just an opportunity to pretend for a few hours that you’re a doctor, an astronaut or the devil himself, the charade is something done in fun.  Unfortunately, the start of the holiday season is also the time of year when conmen and women kick their nefarious activities into high gear.  Just like Halloween, these scam artists try to trick the unwary into believing they’re something they’re not. 

      1.       What a Deal! – While most Americans are cost conscious, that doesn’t mean that all holiday deals are for real.  As we gear up for the Christmas shopping season, expect to be deluged with discount deals galore.  The Internet makes it all too easy to post offers and incentives that seem hard to beat.  Click on these poison pop-ups or respond to a bogus email and the only thing you can expect to come down your chimney this year is grief.  Clickbait and phishing are two of the easiest ways for hackers to breach your defenses.  Not only won’t you get the “Deal” you were promised, once inside your device, the malware you inadvertently installed with one click of your mouse could be used to pilfer your financial data, plant ransomware, or install a Remote Access Trojan that not only gives hackers complete control of your device, but can be used to turn your webcam into a spy.  The solution is not to fall for the trick by never clicking on an ad or a link that offers a deal that’s too good to be true. 

Image courtesy flickr
Parcel Post Peril Another all too common holiday trick that fools many is receiving a notification of a package that has been held up in transit.  What makes this trick so successful is that the email or text message appears to come from a legitimate shipper.  Everything from company logos of such popular shippers as UPS, FedEx, and the US Mail to reasonable facsimiles of tracking numbers and clone landing pages are designed to get you to lower your defenses so the scammers can collect your personal and financial information.  Whether the message instructs you to click on a link or call a toll-free number, don’t fall for it or you’ll be sorry.  I’m sorry to say that I nearly fell for a similar scam a few years ago when I received what I thought was a legitimate inquiry from GoDaddy.  Fortunately, I was smart enough to call GoDaddy directly instead of clicking on the link provided.  Their customer service rep informed me the email was bogus.  Lesson learned.

      3.      The eCard That Stole Christmas – Another way to get Grinched during the season of giving is by giving cons the benefit of the doubt when you receive an eCard.  Whether the digital greeting card appears to have come from a close friend or family member, better give them a call before you click on a link that could ruin your holiday.  Scammers send out bogus eCards by the millions during the holidays.  Even if you recognize the email address of the sender, that doesn’t mean that the card is legitimate.  Remember, the first thing hackers do when they compromise a system is to rifle the hard drive for data such as email addresses.  Last year I received an eCard that was supposedly sent by a friend.  When I called the friend, she told me that she only uses snail mail to send out holiday greetings.  I responded by telling her to talk to an IT pro to see if her computer had been compromised.  It turns out she’d been ratted. 

      4.      Is it better to give or receive? – Another thing you need to beware of around the holidays are bogus charities.  Whether you receive a phone call, an email, a snail mail or a text exhorting you to make a donation, the first thing you need to do is determine whether you are dealing with a legitimate charity.  I don’t care if the request comes from a known charitable organization, it’s all too easy for a conman to pose as a representative.  Give these scammers your credit card number and the only donations you are likely to make are to the con artists.  Never give out your credit card number to an online or phone solicitor.  If you wish to make a charitable contribution during the holidays, make sure you’re dealing with a real charity.

Image courtesy Pexels
      5.      Unsocial Networks – With the boom in social networking has come a boom in scams perpetrated via social networks.  There’s also a danger of you or your family being targeted by thieves who monitor your social sites to find out if you plan on being home for the holidays.  Using social nets to glean pertinent information is nothing new.  The problem is, the more personal data you divulge online, the easier it is for hackers to gain access to you and your friends.  A friend of mine found out his Facebook page had been cloned when a business acquaintance called him to inquire about the charity he was soliciting donations for.  His response was. “What charity?”  It turns out a hacker had made a carbon copy of his page which he then used to troll for donations.  It was only due to the phone call that my friend contacted Facebook which pulled the cloned page down before any damage was done.

      6.      Can hotspots get you into hot water? – If you plan on traveling for the holidays, beware of using public access Wi-Fi hotspots.  Whether you’re in the airport, at a hotel or a restaurant, you should know that hackers may have cracked the hotspot or replaced it with one of their own design.  A far more secure solution is to use your cellphone to create a personal hotspot rather than taking a chance by logging onto a public network with which you are unfamiliar.
Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on home auto insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.


  1. Technology was supposed to make all our lives a lot easier. Where did we go wrong?

  2. These are all great tips. I also suggest checking out - 36 Top Cyber Security Tips to Protect your Digital World


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