Christmas is the season when scammers up their game because people are so busy shopping and preparing for holiday celebrations that they let their guard down. By its nature, the holiday season leaves them more vulnerable to things like shopping and delivery scams. Here are the top five holiday scams to watch out for if you don’t want criminals to wreak havoc with your personal finances:
1) Fake store sites.
This scam comes in two different forms. The first is criminals who set up websites that mimic those of actual retailers. They buy a similar URL and try to trick you into thinking your on the real store’s website. If you fall for it, they steal your credit card details when you try to place an order online. They might even set up a phone line to trick you into calling and giving your financial information
The second way this works is for scammers to set up their own “stores,” which are really nothing more than fake websites set up for the sole purpose of stealing credit card numbers. They lure you in with too goo to be true deals or claims that they have the hot holiday merchandise that’s out of stock everywhere else. The store doesn’t exist, despite the fact that it has a realistic website, and perhaps even a purported customer service telephone number. Try to make a purchase and your credit card will soon be slammed with fraudulent charges.
2) Fake delivery notices.
Scammers like to use the names of legitimate companies like UPS and FedEx to trick unsuspecting victims. Many of us send and receive packages at Christmas, so we’re more likely to open an email attachment claiming to be from a delivery company. These emails usually have a subject line warning you that a delivery couldn’t be completed or asking you to confirm your details to get a delivery at your house. If you download any attached files or click the links in the email and enter information, you’ve just given in to a phishing attempt. The download puts malware on your computer, and the supposed form provides details to crooks who use it for identity theft,
3) Fake order notices.
Many people intensify their online ordering during the holiday season. After all, why go to a crowded mall when you can shop from the comfort of your own home? Scammers know this and send fake order notices, invoices, and receipts via email. They use the names of well-known stores, counting on the fact that your curiosity will get the better of you and you’ll download the supposedly important invoice or receipt. In reality, you’ll infect your computer with malware that steals your passwords and financial details and/or turns it into a zombie machine controlled by criminals.
4) Fake deals and giveaways.
There’s a fake 50 percent off coupon from Target currently making the rounds on Facebook. If you didn’t see it in the news yet, read about it here. It’s just the latest example of a too good to be true offer that suckers in people on social media. We all love a bargain, and people are especially keen to save money around Christmas, when they’re struggling to stay within budget on their gift purchases. Unfortunately, that makes them easy marks for malware downloads, survey scams, and other nasty tricks that come in the guise of coupons or free gift offers.
5) Fake ecards.
Ecards are ubiquitous, so you might not be suspicious when you get an email claiming that someone sent you an online Christmas card. Don’t click that link, especially if there’s no personal information. Some scammers hack accounts, so even an ecard with your name or that of a friend could still be a cover for malware or a virus.