The 12 Scams of Christmas
By Diane Tait
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
They say this is the season of giving. But the last thing you want to give is your hard-earned money to scammers and cybercriminals. As usual, during the holidays every consumer can expect to get bombarded with holiday greetings, ads, emails, and text messages, some of which are from friends and family, while others are from crafty con men and women who are out to spoil your holiday cheer. If you want to keep the Grinch off your back this Christmas, here are 12 holiday scams to avoid.
1. Make a list and check it twice. – 'Tis the season to be duped, even by friends and family. That means if you receive an e-card or any other link that purportedly came from a friend or family member, touch base with the sender before you click on any link unless you want to get hacked. The first thing a hacker will do once they gain access to your computer is rifle it for every email address you have on your system so they can send out season's greetings to your friends and family complete with embedded malware.
2. Don't fall for phony shopping websites. - This time of year the Internet is awash in fake ads that tout great deals on coveted merchandise. If you fall for clickbait you're in for a world of hurt as cybercriminals either steal your credit card number or load your device with malware that gives them backdoor access to it.
3. Send in the Clones - When it comes to the number one holiday scam this year, spoofing beats them all. Everyone from Tesla CEO Elon Musk to Hollywood celebrities are being cloned to dupe unsuspecting victims. If you receive an email or text message from a high-profile celeb inviting you to attend a special online event, don't touch the included link unless you want to get scammed. Even if the offer includes a video that clearly shows the celebrity pitching the offer, there is software available that can enable cybercriminals to clone anyone seamlessly online.
4. Fake Shipper Shenanigans - While this con isn't new, there are still many who fall for it hook, line and sinker. The way the scam works is you receive a text or email claiming that a well-known shipping company (FedEx, UPS, or USPS) has a holiday parcel that's hung up in transit. All you need to do to claim the package is click on a link to confirm your identity and address. Click on the link and you'll be redirected to a legitimate-looking site that asks you to confirm the package is yours. What it actually does is fleece you out of personal information. Don't bite on this phishing link. Call the shipper to find out if they sent the email.
5. Stimulus Check Scams – Whether you receive a phone call, a text, or an email to let you know that you need to confirm your personal information before you receive your next stimulus check, don't believe it. All you'll receive is heartbreak once cyberthieves use the information you provide to rip you off.
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
6. Cyptocurrency Crimes – One of the biggest cons of the season involves pushing worthless cryptocurrency to the public. Whether you are thinking of investing in crypto or have someone offer to pay you in it, you'd better think twice before you wind up spending your money on a pump-and-dump scheme or send valuable merchandise to a con artist who never intended to pay you. When in doubt, use Paypal as a secure payment conduit.
7. Payment Portal Pitfalls - The rise of smartphone payment tools such as Zelle, Venmo, CashApp, and others has led to a rise in online ripoffs. The scammers either try to convince you to send back funds that they "accidentally" credited to your account, or they send you a bogus email or text asking you to confirm that you tried to send funds to a second party. Respond to either of these bogus claims and you could be out cold hard cash. Any time you receive any message that asks you to confirm or refute a money transfer don't click on the link. Instead, contact the purported payment portal to find out what's what.
8. Don't share your COVID cards with scammers – Many people who proudly posted their COVID-19 vaccination cards on social media were surprised when the information contained was used by con artists for identity theft. If you want to share the fact that you've been vaccinated, use a generic Got My Vaccination picture frame on social sites.
9. Account Takeover Scams – Another all-too-common scam is to receive a message purportedly from a bank, credit card company, trusted shopping site, Internet service provider, or even the IRS claiming that there's big trouble with your account. Many of these messages threaten severe repercussions if you fail to respond. The problem is if you do provide the requested information, the only thing that will be fixed is your fate as scammers will shortly thereafter take over your account and lock you out.
10. Ho Ho Holiday Hoaxes – You'd best double-check the URL and security status of any etailer you plan on doing business with. That's because online pirates can create websites that look exactly like the real deal. If you don't notice that a URL has one too many or too few letters in it, or you fail to note that there is no HTTPS on a payment link, the only person who will have a merry Christmas is a con artist who now has your credit card number.
11. Kids and Retirees Beware – The two most scammed age groups during the holidays are the young and the old. The number of online scams reported by Gen Z has increased by more than 150% in the past three years, while that of Baby Boomers has doubled during the same period. If you have family members who are below age 20 or over age 60, you need to clue them in on the tricks and traps presented in this blog before they get conned.
12. Employment Scams– The Christmas holidays are also high time for employment scams designed to collect personal and financial data that can be used to rip you off. Never divulge your social security number or credit card information to anyone you don't know, like, and trust online. Identity theft only takes moments to commit but months or years to correct.
Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance. To find out more about how you can save money on boat insurance, go to her site.