The holiday season brings a few things: Sales, shopping, and scams. Now that we’re in the thick of it, you should be aware of some of the online scams out there trying to steal some of your Christmas cash. With the help of Bitdefender, we’ve rounded up scams that you or your friends and family need to keep an eye out for this holiday season. The last thing you’d want to do is download a virus during the shopping season or lose hundreds of better-spent dollars.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t
If you see a suspicious email about holiday deals from companies you don’t recognize or haven’t signed up for emails from, don’t bother opening it. The subject of an unidentified email like “Christmas Sales” might be alluring, but should you click on the banner in an email or open up an attachment a virus or other malware is waiting to sneak its way onto your computer.
Bitdefender has found that the most popular types of offers will try to sell you luxury watches, or Apple gadgets like a MacBook Air, iPad, and iPhone, which isn’t surprising one bit. Some scams will also try to offer you discount codes.
Christmas party scams
Holiday parties at companies are an inevitability and this very fact is what scammers are starting to take advantage of. You might not recognize the sender’s email address, but the body of the email might look personalized enough for the recipient to be believable. There could be links embedded in the emails that appear harmless, but be sure not to click them. Or should you respond to the email address, the response will alert the scammers that the address is in fact active and they can take action from there. And then of course if you’ve fallen for the scam, which can be quite elaborate (company logos included), there’s the chance that you could be phished for money.
Be wary of the sites you browse when searching for gifts or vacations. Unless you’re searching Amazon or other reputable e-commerce sites, you might not recognize the slight variations. Bitdefender noticed that scammers were replicating websites of legitimate establishments and businesses to dupe users into making purchases for what the victims believed was an affordable room. Take for example the Sheraton Skyline Hotel at Heathrow, which scammers created a bogus, replica site for. In addition to handing over money to the scammers, the victim’s credit card information, address, and names have been logged.
Fraudulent divorce lawyers
If you’re desperate for a divorce lawyer come the holiday season – and evidently studies have shown that the Christmas holiday is among the busiest times of the year for such legal proceedings – conducting a random Google search could mean that you end up with someone with programming skills posing as a lawyer who tacks on “fees” to gradually scam you of your money.
Holiday charity and earnings fraud
If you’re in the mood for giving during this holiday season, we’d recommend you to do your research before relinquishing some of your hard earned money to an illegitimate “charity organization.” If you’d like to donate, but aren’t sure of a group’s authenticity, you can find a list of accredited charity organizations through the Better Business Bureau.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to earn a little extra after emptying your pockets on presents, you should also be careful. For example, you might see emails with (incorrect, but enticing) subject lines like: “If you’re short on cash this holiday, see how Holiday Cash help you make your Christmas Merry.” It sounds inviting enough to at least click on, but in this specific case Bitdefender found that the linked-to website in the email harbored malware from a Russian server.
Scam artist Santa
If your child believes in Santa and you’d like to keep that imagination alive for just a few more years, parents are apt to look for a way to send “Santa” a letter. There are numerous services out there, like USPS, Santa Claus House, and Letters to Santa, but because of the demand and popularity, it’s attracted scammers. Emails advertising Santa letter services prompt recipients to click on links sending them to sites with online surveys advertising a chance to win an iPhone or an iPad in exchange for an email address and phone number. You can be assured none of this will net you a note from good old St. Nick.
Extra tips for online shoppers
Bitdefender also has the following tips that you should keep in mind, especially if you’re planning on shopping online:
- Don’t shop when you are connected to an unprotected Wi-Fi network.
- Don’t buy what comes advertised via spam, instant messenger, or social networking platforms. You will oftentimes be redirected toward websites harboring malware or spoofed Web locations that look like the original sites.
- Shop only from your personal computer. It’s important that you don’t give your credentials while surfing the Internet on PCs in coffee shops, libraries, or at work.
- Before entering card-related data, run a 60-second QuickScan from here or a full system scan with your favorite antivirus. If you’re shopping from the family PC, use a secure browser such as Safepay, a browser that protects credit card information, account numbers, and any other sensitive data entered while accessing different online locations.
- Last but not least, always keep your browser, your software, and your antivirus updated.