The holiday season is meant to be a time of joy and celebration and it is also fraught with deals and specials that you simply cannot do without. It is also, unfortunately, when scammers are also hard at work to have you part with your hard-earned money. You must always be vigilant, but particularly during the holiday season, and be able to recognize when a deal is actually a scam.
This extract from Symantec, a global tech leader in cyber security software, summarizes what internet scams are:
´Internet scams are different methodologies of fraud, facilitated by cybercriminals on the Internet. Scams can happen in a myriad of ways- via phishing emails, social media, SMS messages on your mobile phone, fake tech support phone calls, scareware and more. The main purpose of these types of scams can range from credit card theft, capturing user login and password credentials and even identity theft´.
Cyber security threats increase markedly during the holidays and you must keep your wits about you. Here are a few tips from CSO, another industry leader in cyber security, that may help you:
- Check contact names: Use caution if you receive communications from a source you don’t recognize that asks you to take an action, like providing personal information or signing into a site. Most, if not all, companies will never prompt you for your information via email or text. When someone does, this should be considered a red flag that they’re not who they say they are. Check their email address or phone number and compare it with the person or organization they claim to be associated with for inconsistencies.
- Look for misspellings and poor grammar: Professional organizations take the time to read their communications over before sending. Oftentimes, phishing cybercriminals do not. If you receive a message from a supposedly trusted source that includes typos, poor grammar, or bad punctuation, chances are it’s a scam.
- Look for aggressive behaviour: If the subject matter and language of a message is overly aggressive, it is likely a scam. Have you ever seen an email in your SPAM folder saying something similar to, “Urgent! Your account is X days overdrawn Contact us IMMEDIATELY”? The goal here is to make you uneasy, panic, and take the action the scammers want. Instead, check with the party they claim to represent before taking any immediate action.
- Avoid “free” deals: As the old adage goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.” Many cyber scammers will attempt to lure victims in with promises of free downloads, free shipping, free subscriptions, etc. So, be sure to not only double check the source and read the fine print of any agreements, but also do some checking on the organization claiming to make these offers.
- Use secure WiFi: Be mindful of free WiFi. Public spaces and shops offering free WiFi connections are common locations for man-in-the-middle attacks where criminals will often broadcast the availability of WiFi services and then use them to capture data. When using public WiFi, use VPN connections and avoid sensitive transactions. Many mobile apps are also programmed to automatically connect to known connections, so cybercriminals often use common WiFi SSIDs, such as “Home Network” to trick devices into automatically connecting without requiring any user input.