Brace yourself. The holidays are here, and with them come weeks of intense shopping as people search for that perfect gift. More and more shoppers are going online to take advantage of added convenience and special deals, not to mention as a way of avoiding the large crowds and limited parking. But with increased shopping comes increased risks for cyber scams for people who lack the proper network security. Hackers and criminals are more determined than ever, and with recent security breaches at major corporations like Target, every shopper should be extra vigilant this year. Here are seven holiday scams these cyber criminals will use that you should be on the lookout for.
1. Fake Charities
The holidays are a time for giving to the less fortunate, but sadly many scammers see it as a time to take advantage of the public's generosity. They often do this by sending out emails and messages asking for a donation in the guise of a fake charity. If people end up donating, the criminals get away with their money and likely other personal information. To defend against this, never give to a charity you are unfamiliar with. Always do your homework and research before sending anyone money.
2. Fake Emails
Similar to fake charities, scammers will often send out emails designed to get a hurried response from their targets. In a list of the 12 scams to avoid during the holidays, security company McAfee says fake emails can include false shipping notifications and phishing scams. Clicking on a link from these emails could end up downloading viruses to your computer or smartphone.
3. Fake Store Websites
Emails aren't the only attempt at fakery scammers can employ. Cyber criminals can create whole websites advertising amazing deals designed to lure unsuspecting shoppers. These fake websites can even appear on Google searches, so shoppers need to be careful. Going to the website could send malware to your computer, which in turn can compromise your network security. To avoid this scam, stick to established, reputable retail websites. You should always be suspicious of a deal that looks too good to be true.
4. False Advertising
Similar to the previous points, incredible deals that defy logic should raise your suspicions. Phony deals can have dangerous links that can send viruses and malware, but links are only part of the problem. False advertising can pop up in fake contests promoted on social media. You've probably seen a few of them on Facebook or Twitter. While legitimate businesses often hold contests to boost social media followers, shoppers should still be careful when clicking on them.
5. Fake Credit Cards
People use credit cards for online shopping, so during the holidays, many people receive credit card offers. Like other scams, these are usually issued in an attractive way with low interest rates and high limits. Always check with the bank that's offering the card to make sure it's a legitimate offer, and to be on the safe side, don't click on any of the links that appear in posts and forums that talk about the deal.
6. Fake Robocalls
Scammers may also try to call your phone posing as a bank saying your credit card or account has been compromised. The purpose of these robocalls is to convince you to give them a password and other sensitive information that could give the scammers access to your account. Be suspicious of any call you get of this nature and always double check with your bank.
7. Faulty Holiday Apps
Companies come out with specialized holiday apps for mobile devices all the time, but some are more dangerous than others. Even some of the apps that look legitimate could contain hidden malware and malicious code. These dangerous apps may end up stealing personal information stored on your smartphone.
These are only a handful of scams to be wary of. As always, the best defense is to be vigilant during the holiday season. Always check your accounts and report any suspicious purchases immediately. Do this and you'll feel a lot safer as you go shopping for the rest of the year.