As if 2020 hasn’t been hard enough, scammers are making life a little more complex, as Christmas scams heat up.
By now, you’re probably all too aware that scammers are out for your money, and like us, you’re probably not a fan. Everyone needs something to do, but scammers need to find something else: ripping off people is not a legitimate form of work, so we all need to do our part to prevent them from taking us for a ride.
Unfortunately, with only a few days until Christmas, some of them are doing just that, as scammers increase the attacks, turning up the intensity and targeting anyone and everyone with fake gift cards, fraudulent online stores, and clearly dishonest shipping notifications meant to get you to hand over details, losing time and money in the process.
The holiday and Christmas scams we’re seeing in 2020 aren’t dramatically different from others we’ve seen throughout the year, but with the final month winding down and eyes on gifts and packages coming in through couriers and the post, it means your guard may be down, and that’s the perfect time for scammers to strike. That means it’s important to remain on guard and vigilant against any possible scams coming in, and if you’re unsure, to question what you’re seeing.
Scammers do evolve, but the scams often have telltale signs, such as poor spelling and grammar, plus a link that may not make sense. While some links can be unmasked, such as the Bitly links, they don’t all do that, and cybercriminals can be particularly handy depending on how they word a message.
Shipping scams speed up
Some of those scams included the vaunted shipping scam, of which see a particular abundance during holiday seasons, partially because many of us are eyeing the post box and front door waiting for that next gift to throw under the tree.
That gives scammers a way in, and means an odd link sent to you could just convince you to click and start to fall for their nonsense before your wits get the better of you.
“After reports of just how much pressure our shipping and postal systems are under this Christmas, Aussies are warier than ever that their online orders won’t arrive in time for the big day,” said Alex Merton-McCann, Cybermum for McAfee in Australia.
“We have seen scammers capitalise on this in the past by posing as reputable delivery services and sending phishing texts or emails that require consumers to pay a non-existent fee for their package to be delivered,” she told Pickr.
We’ve seen a few come in ourselves, and while scammers are getting better — even going so far as to fake the sending number with a company name, something that isn’t ridiculously hard — the grammar can still be lazy enough to raise a red flag.
As with any message you may not have been expecting, question it, and if you’re unsure, check the store you might have ordered something from, looking for the legitimate tracking details, rather than trusting a message from out of the blue outright.
Gift card scams are a big deal, but not for your wallet
One of the easiest holiday gift items is a big deal for scammers, because they can convince you to part ways with money and be left holding a card worth literally nothing.
Yes, gift cards can seem like a great gift, but only if you grab them from a legitimate source. Without that legitimacy, you’re essentially throwing your gift money into Dire Straits, with money for nothing.
“McAfee’s recent survey showed a fifth of Aussies plan to receive or purchase more online gift cards this year, but a quarter of Aussies automatically assume gift card links are safe and don’t always take the necessary steps to ensure legitimacy,” said McCann.
“This makes it all too easy for cybercriminals to get in on the action, offering bogus, valueless or already used gift cards online.”
The easy tip here is similar to buying tickets for an entertainment event: don’t buy from a scalper, digital or otherwise. If you are planning on buying a digital gift card, make sure you get one from a proper source, otherwise you could be left without value, and no recourse.
There are so many more scams
There are just so many other scams happening around this time, from romance scams to charity scams to scams that offer puppies to people looking for a new pet. We’re even seeing scams related coronavirus vaccines, with the misinformation gradually building up online, leading to links that intend to remove money from your life, or even steal and damage your identity. There’s just so much happening, that it can all be dizzying.
“The good news is that most scammers’ plans can be foiled by simply taking a few extra minutes to ensure any links or messages you receive are the real deal,” McCann told Pickr this week.
“Check whether the URL or sender’s email address or phone number look legitimate, scan the message for any spelling errors, or go directly to the source company’s website or customer service contact centre,” she said.
“You will very quickly be able to tell whether the correspondence is trustworthy or not.”
As always, you’ll want to pay particular attention to any message you get, because scammers are hoping you’ll click without thinking. Messages that come out of the blue from numbers or names you don’t know are typically the ones you should be checking, but it doesn’t take much effort to apply a bit of scrutiny to everything, just to make sure you’re not being conned.
“Trust your gut,” said McCann. “If a deal looks too good to be true or something about the website, email or text you’re looking at seems fishy, you’re probably right!”