T’is The Season To Beware Of Online Scammers, Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

After the distant social celebrations of 2020, the Christmas season returns to normalcy this year. Families have reunited, shops await the royal bustle, the air brims with the warm aroma of hot cocoa, and baubles dangle down every bough of freshly-trimmed fir trees. It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Everywhere you go- ho ho ho!

If you think about it, the Christmas spirit captures the very essence of being human—it fills you up with immense joy and inspires you to embrace your sense of community. Unfortunately, just like the other half of the moon, this season, too, has a darker side.
(Horror Music.)

Why Are Online Scams Higher During Holiday Seasons?

While most count their blessings and seek ways to help others, some use fraudulent tactics to exploit your Christmas spirit. No wonder Martin Luther King Jr. once quoted: “There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.”

Some of these prevalent Christmas frauds and scams are directly holiday-related. However, most are mere variations of typical scams that use seasonal spikes in costs and web traffic to their advantage. And because we live in the age of online shopping, entirely naturally—we live in the Age of Online Shopping Scams, too. (Horror Music Intensifies.)

According to research firm Ipsos 2021 Holiday Survey, two-thirds of consumers expect to buy gifts online this season, and almost 3 in 5 used to purchase online before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many shoppers stumble upon fake websites and social media campaigns in a season rife with shiny deals and offers. These spoofing sites and fake posts reign supreme, enticing you to spend on products that seem too good to be true. Ah, but there is a catch—you’ll probably never receive these products.

In addition, scammers may collect credit cards and other personal information to steal or sell identities on the dark half of the internet: the dark web. They can also distribute malware poisoned links or attachments through promotional offers or order confirmation emails. Since the holiday season marks an all-time high purchase of gifts, it isn’t surprising that according to a new AARP Fraud Watch Network report, 75% of surveyed people have experienced holiday-related scams.

However, since ‘the careful foot can walk anywhere,’ by carefully looking out for early warning signs, you can walk into any store, website, or deal whilst avoiding scams.

Five Common Scams During The Holiday Season

Phishing Emails:

From wrapping papers to ornaments, from lit-up trees to starry winter skies—it’s the surreal glimmer of the season that makes everything oh-so-magical. However, as the adage goes, “all that glitters is not gold,” especially when it appears in your email inbox.

Through emails, scammers send forms of bogus delivery confirmation requests or personalized letters from Santa for your kids, asking for your credentials or credit card details. To avoid falling for these, make sure you put your careful foot forward when sharing any information online.

Fake Charities:

More than anything else, Christmas is the season of “giving.” Not only giving presents to your loved ones and sharing all that you can to those in need. And what better way there is to give than through charities.

However, this, too, isn’t bereft of scams. Scammers often take advantage of your “giving spirit” and wealth during this time of year by asking you to donate to a charity that doesn’t even exist. Hence, “since great (financial) power comes from great responsibility,” make sure you responsibly verify the authenticity of the charity you want to contribute to by checking
their website. Even better—you directly reach out to them.

Fake Websites:

Due to the holiday season, fake websites pop up like Christmas decor in wholesale markets. They promise that you’ve either won the perfect gift or offer. However, at this beautiful time of the year, these shady sites are no mistletoes, so please don’t lose your heart (or credit card details) to them.

Instead, only buy items from reputable online stores. Also, always check the website URL to verify if it’s genuine or fake. E.g., Amazon.com is legitimate, but Amaazon.com would be a fake website. Moreover, make sure the site has HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) in the URL, ensuring the connection is secure.

Used Gift Vouchers:

Christmas gifts do a lot more than shine and sparkle under the Christmas tree—they symbolize love. Unfortunately, fraudsters use this to their advantage by selling used or empty gift vouchers. So, to make sure you receive everything you pay for, always buy gift vouchers from reputable online stores.

Temporary Holiday Jobs:

While it’s the holiday season for some, it’s a season of opportunities for others. Kudos to companies who spread happiness by employing more during this season. But now more than ever, job hunting demands a careful eye from job seekers because of the growing number of scams.

Many of these scammers pose as employees of prominent companies and organizations on social media platforms and post job opportunities. Job seekers land on fake company websites that make alluring but dishonest claims upon following these. Many disclose their personal information to these websites in the hope of finding a much-needed job opportunity, but to no avail.

Put, if job opportunities are little sprinkles of stardust on Christmas, job scams are silent killers of your festive career dreams. Don’t let that prevent you from seeking new opportunities, but be wary of the red flags and warning signs coming your way.

Warning Signs

• Heavy discounts and free products are too good to be true. But Santa Clause isn’t.
• Unleash your inner Grammar Nazi and spell-check websites, emails, and products
before trusting them.
• Remember that shopping or travel websites with only emails but no official business
phone numbers or addresses smell fishy to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
• Sites without privacy policies make Rudolph’s ears twitch with suspicion.
• Do not click on unsolicited email links, app download requests, or delivery
arrangements, even if they guarantee you’ll end up on Santa’s good list.

Final Word

In short, don’t hush your childlike Christmas awe. But, at the same time, don’t let the haze of the season blind you. Shop carefully, responsibly, and if need be, don’t hold yourself back from investing in our cybersecurity solutions and knowledge-sharing materials. After all, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.

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