This holiday season, as more and more people try to avoid the lines and crush of shoppers by purchasing gifts over the internet, the grinches that lurk around every internet corner trying to access your devices and steal your data are ready to take you down. They come bearing “gifts” in many shapes and forms: via text, via email and even through spoofed websites. Your challenge (besides affording all the gifts you’re buying) is to stay alert and aware when it comes to the things you click, the forms you fill out, the information you give, the data you download and websites you visit. Whether you’re shopping with your smartphone, your pc or a Mac, you have to be on the lookout for things that can ruin your yuletide spirit this shopping season. Here are a few scams and tricks out there right now that would definitely be worse to receive than a fruitcake.
Fake shipments- If you’ve been shopping online, you’re probably expecting a delivery notification. This is a popular way for hackers to get you to click on their links. Any number of viruses and malware are delivered this way. If you’re not 100% sure the email is legit, type in the website’s URL into your browser, and enter your login directly to the site.
Holiday screensavers- These festive temptations may look like they’re designed to get you in the holiday spirit, but once you download them they deliver a lump of coal. Be sure you can completely trust the source you’re downloading from. Same thing with potentially malicious ringtones and holiday e-cards.
Coupon Scams- Hey, want 20% off that purchase? Just enter your personal info here, and you’ll qualify for a coupon code that will allow you to save, save, save. Except there is no savings because now you’ve just given away valuable data that could be used to hack into your online accounts or steal your identity.
Vacation or travel notices – Heading out of state to visit the relatives, or on a warm-weather winter getaway this year? Be careful what you post online about whether you’re in town or not. Real-time pictures of you boarding a plane or with your toes in the sand let thieves know there’s no one at your house to protect your valuables. Make social media posts about your trip in the past tense, after you’ve returned.
Fake Viruses—One of the most prolific current scams cons users into thinking they have downloaded a virus. The scammers then offer up a link to AV software you “need” to clean the virus. Don’t buy anything or offer any personal info in these scenarios. Just use the “X” to close out of the browser.
SMS text phishing—Crooks send you a text indicating your bank account has been frozen, and asking you to supply your account number and personal info to “confirm” who you are in order to reactivate it. Don’t fall for this one! If you have doubts, call your bank or your credit card company directly to get an account status.
Spoofed email address –Scammers can send you an email that LOOKS like it came from someone in your organization. They often request personal info or sometimes even money transfers. If the request seems odd or out of place, confirm with the sender personally before replying. Sometimes when you hover your mouse over the sender’s email address, a totally different email address will pop up in the alt text; a sure sign of an attempted scam.
More than anything, let common sense be your guide. Don’t open attachment you weren’t expecting, or emails from sources with whom you’re unfamiliar. Be sure you are using strong passwords for any online shopping accounts you use. Most shopping sites should not have a need for your social security number, so be extra cautious if you’re ever asked for it. If you’re concerned about a site’s security, make sure you see https in the URL. With a little care and precaution, doing your holiday shopping online CAN be safer than hitting the stores!