For most people, the holidays are a time to relax and unwind with family and friends. But, the festive season is also an opportunity for cyber criminals to get their hands on your personal information.
At this time of year, cyber criminals are constantly innovating new scams to steal the personal information of unsuspecting consumers, from phishing emails to malware infections.
Research shows that phishing attacks, which hovered between 68,000 and 94,000 each month in 2020, have more than doubled in 2021 even peaking at 260,642 attacks in July alone. With the holiday season fast approaching, these numbers are likely to increase.
This article will look at some of the most dangerous holiday cyber scams and outline some simple steps you can take to protect your information from unscrupulous cyber criminals.
5 Cyber Scams You Need to be Aware Of
When it comes to cyber scams, fraudsters will use many different tactics to try and trick you into handing over your information. Below are five of the most common scams:
1. Phishing scams
Phishing scams are one of the most popular scams making the rounds. While legitimate companies send customers last-minute emails promoting their products, a cyber criminal will send you emails advertising fake products at bargain prices to try to trick you into clicking on a link to a phishing website.
Scammers can also try to trick you into opening malicious email attachments and infecting your device with malware so that they have an opportunity to steal your personal information.
2. Fake Social Media Promotions
While many consumers like to shop for bargains on social media, fraudsters routinely set up fake online account pages and promote goods with prices below market value to lure shoppers into making a purchase.
Once the victim hands over the payment details, the owner of the fake store can steal them to make purchases elsewhere, these types of attacks are widespread, with 38.3% of scam reports in 2020 related to online purchase scams.
3. Fake Shipping Notification Scams
One common type of social engineering scam cyber criminals use is a fake shipping notification scam. During this scam, the attacker will send you an email or SMS message from a shipping provider like USPS, UPS, FedEx, or DHL.
The message will prompt you to “schedule the delivery” of your parcel and provide you with a link that takes you to a phishing website, which attempts to infect your device with malware and hijack your personal information.
4. Charity/Disaster Relief Scams
As consumers look to support those in need over the Christmas period, many hackers attempt to exploit this kindness by creating charity and disaster relief scams. Fraudsters will invite consumers to make donations to causes and individuals on social media but instead steal their money and personal information.
5. Fake Websites
Fake websites or phishing websites are another top threat to consumers because cyber criminals will often create ‘eCommerce’ websites that they optimize for search engines and offer goods at competitive prices to mislead consumers into making a purchase.
Then the moment the victim hands over their payment details, the hackers will record them and use them to commit identity fraud and fraudulent purchases further down the road.
7 Ways to Protect Yourself from Holiday Scams
With so many scammers lurking online, security awareness is the key to protecting your personal information from cyber criminals this holiday season. Below are some basic steps you can take to make yourself a much harder target for fraudsters:
1. Don’t click on links or attachments in emails from unknown senders
If you receive an email from an unknown sender, never click on any email links or attachments, as these can direct you to a phishing website or infect your device with malware.
2. Beware of Smishing attempts
Attackers will often send SMS messages with links to phishing websites to try and trick you into giving up personal information. If someone sends you an SMS message with a link in it, don’t open it, as this is likely a smishing attempt.
3. Only shop with trusted retailers
While searching for deals through social media and search engines can help you find better prices, you have a much higher chance of running into a scam than you do if you only shop with trusted retailers. Shopping with trusted retailers will reduce the likelihood of a fraudster harvesting your details.
4. Practice identifying phishing emails with phishing simulations
Phishing attempts are one of the biggest threats to your personal information, so learning how to identify them with phishing simulations is vital for spotting scams independently and protecting your personal data.
5. Create Strong Passwords for Your Accounts
Many hackers will try to guess or break into your account via your username and password to access your personal and credit card details. You can make this more difficult for them by creating strong passwords for your accounts with a mixture of lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
6. Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
You can also make your online accounts more difficult to hack with multi-factor authentication (MFA). Using MFA is crucial because even if an attacker manages to get hold of your password, they won’t be able to log in, as they won’t have access to the passcode sent to your trusted device or email address.
7. Install malware protection and antivirus software on your devices
Installing anti-malware and antivirus software on your devices and installing the latest security patches is critical for ensuring that they don’t have any vulnerabilities that an attacker can exploit.
While the holiday season can be hectic, it’s important to beware of the latest scams so that you can protect yourself and shop safely without having to worry about having your data stolen.
As a general rule of thumb, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. So if you see someone selling products on social media at below market value prices, it’s best to move along, as there’s a strong chance they’re trying to scam you.
Want to find out how security awareness training can protect you from phishing scams? Contact us today.
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