7 Christmas scams to watch out for this holiday season

by Julie Splinters - -

Criminals might take away your Christmas Spirit

How to avoid online scams during Christmas

According to the statistics portal, more than 55% U.S citizens expect to purchase Christmas gifts on the Internet[1]. This is the perfect opportunity for cybercriminals to take advantage of inexperienced computer users. They employ multiple well-considered ways to not only swindle money from people but also steal credentials and other valuable information. 

As usual, during the Christmas time, there is a significant increase in special offers, bundles, discounts, etc. Sadly, but not all of them are true. Scam statistics show that more than $107 billion was stolen from U.S consumers via phishing or identity theft cases[2]

Note that IT professional is not necessary to protect during the holiday season. However, it is vital to be aware of the possible threats in the cyberspace which seek potential victims online. The list below indicates 7 top Christmas scams to look out this year if you don't want to suffer from financial losses.

7 Christmas scams to watch out for this holiday season

Gift Card scams. Probably everyone enjoys great offers. However, scammers promote fake Gift Cards of famous brands to trick people into giving their personal information. Last year, consumers reported Amazon Gift Card scam which was actively spreading via social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

The users were offered to receive a free Amazon Gift Card after confirming their email address and other private details[3]. Crooks target to trick victims from the official payment page and redirect to their phishing website which might look legitimate. 

Charity scams. Since Christmas is all about giving and not getting, online criminals try to manipulate human kindness and pretend to be a charity organization or claim giving donations to one of them. Typically, fake charity pages say that they are selling handmade trinkets to support itself. Likewise, encouraging people to purchase them for a good cause.

However, in reality, the phishing website is not the manufacturer of the offered good. They simply trick you to provide your personal information to the scammers who make the order in the Chinese factory and use dropshipping to deliver the product after the payment[4]

Note that you might be asked to for approximately $8 when the actual Chinese manufacturers charge 50 cents with free shipping. Even though drop shipping is, in fact, legitimate and popular, it leaves plenty of space for the scammers to perform their phishing actions and gain $7.5 probably not for charity purposes. 

Christmas e-Card scams. During the holiday season, people want to show their love to the relatives who cannot be together during Christmas — they send e-Cards via email letters. Thus, malevolent people decided to exploit this tradition for distributing potentially unwanted programs or malware.

According to the researchers, people receive an innocent email saying that they if they want to see the e-Card they have to click on the provided link. If clicked, the link connects the computer to the malware-hosting server and downloads it on the PC. Currently, it is almost impossible to tell what type of virus reaches your system since criminals might infiltrate Trojan horses, ransomware, or other high-risk computer threats.

You should be aware, that crooks try their best to make the letters look convincing and legitimate. Therefore, it might be hard to identify their origins and not confuse the malicious actions with actual Christmas greetings from your family and friends. 

Romance scams. Everyone wants to feel loved during the holiday season. Likewise, it is easy to get tricked by online imposters who try to manipulate your feelings for illegal profit. Cybersecurity experts report that people from Australia lost almost $20 million from dating and romance scams during last year. 

Scammers create multiple social media accounts with fake photographs and start numerous romantic conversations online. Usually, they pretend to live in a different country than their victim to protect their real identity and avoid quick dates. Since they are excellent psychological manipulators, it takes no time to convince a gullible person to transfer funds necessary for “the plane ticket” to finally meet. 

Sadly, but this is the point where they block their victims or just stop replying. However, is some cases they even might create justifiable reasons why they need more money and keep obtaining illegal profits by taking advantage of basic human needs like love. 

Lottery scams. A popular way to benefit from credulous people is to promote lottery scams which disguise under popular companies, such as Uber, Microsoft, Linkedin, etc. Scammers send email letters which claim that the unbelievable massive amount of money or goods have been won.

As mentioned above, scam letters tend to look genuine and convincing, and these are not an exception. To receive the “prize” victims are asked to make a small payment for the processing services and fill several documents. Usually, they are tricked into not only pay but also submit their private details which might be later used for the phishing purposes as well. 

Shipping notification scams. Since more and more people tend to shop online during the holiday season to avoid that Christmas buzz and traffic, criminals try to lure you into giving personal information or infiltrating a banking Trojan. They send a fake shipping receipt requesting an update and insist on clicking the provided link[5]

Once again, fake emails are highly dangerous because they can hold over the malware download once you click on it. However, start it automatically after a safe period of time. Likewise, you can infiltrate a Trojan horse which will be able to log your banking details and send them to the criminals or be tricked to provide them yourself. 

Fake Job offer scams. Another great way for the crooks to get your personal information is by creating fraudulent job websites which would look genuine. This way, people who are seeking for a job will submit all private data like name, surname, address, phone number and other, by thinking that they are applying for a job spot.

Tips to protect yourself from Christmas holiday scams

While online scams might look different, they are all based on the same thing — human credulity. Therefore, there several simple steps to follow if you want to avoid financial losses during the holiday season:

  1. Do not open spam emails and attachments/links they contain;
  2. Never click on sponsored ads which might appear as banners, pop-ups or in-texts;
  3. Do not trust people you have met online and never give money when asked;
  4. Stay away from surveys or lottery offers and do not submit your email address or other private information;
  5. If you want to donate to the charity organization, do a proper research and check the reviews;

About the author

Julie Splinters
Julie Splinters - Malware removal specialist

Julie Splinters is the News Editor of 2-spyware. Her bachelor was English Philology.

Contact Julie Splinters
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References