Cyber Thieves Can Wreak Holiday Havoc: How to Avoid these Scams

The holiday shopping season means that consumers are opening their wallets for the busiest shopping season of the year. With consumers spending nearly $18 billion online on Black Friday alone the last two years, the holiday shopping season is one of the most lucrative times of the year for retailers.

But retailers aren’t the only ones chasing holiday spending revenue.

The shopping season is also one of the busiest times for cyber criminals, who view the holiday season as a prime opportunity to cash in on consumers who let their guard down due to expectations of lofty sales and the pure volume of online shopping. To make sure that you don’t fall for any scams this holiday season, I have some tips from Carl Kriebel who is with Schneider Downs. Carl has over 20 years of experience working as a cyber security practitioner and strategist. He has operated across numerous industries and has recently been focused on advising healthcare, life sciences and financial services clients on solving complex challenges associated with data protection and compliance concerns.  He has led a myriad of projects during his career transforming and enhancing client cyber programs toward achieving their desired state of maturity. 

Carl sees several online scams during the holiday season, three of the most common ones this year are shipping & payment scams, fraudulent charities and social media scams.

Shipping and Payment Scams

One of the fastest growing scams in recent years involves fraudulent communications regarding shipping or payment issues. Scammers simply send a text, email or pick up the phone to notify their target that a recent purchase has been declined or there is a shipping issue on a recent purchase. Scammers will offer to remediate the issue, which normally involves the target providing credit card information or clicking on a link to an imposter website loaded with malware.

In general, consumers should avoid clicking on any links or providing information to unsolicited communications. If you are concerned there is a legitimate issue with shipping or an online purchase, we recommend checking the receipt or contacting the retailer directly.

Fraudulent Charities

Scammers are increasingly trying to capitalize on the holiday spirit of giving with fraudulent charity scams. With the popularity of “Giving Tuesday”, reports of charitable fraud continue to grow during the holiday season. Whether a scammer is impersonating a legitimate charity or just making up them up, consumers need to do their research before contributing to a charity.

Some of the best ways to avoid falling victim to a fraudulent charity are to be wary of any unsolicited charitable communications that pressure them into processing payments over the phone or website, as well as avoiding clicking on any links from unknown senders.

Social Media Scams

Another popular holiday shopping trend is Small Business Saturday, which promotes supporting small businesses in local communities. With a growing number of small businesses using social media as an extension of their ecommerce ecosystem, it is no surprise that social media scams are common during the holiday season.

Remember, it is just as easy for a scammer to build a social media business page with e-commerce functions or buy social media advertisements as it is for a legitimate business. Be wary of clicking on social media advertisements or providing payment information to unverified online shops.

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