fake email phishing

The Holiday Con

It's that time of year, are you ready?

Given the cyber-crime epidemic we are experiencing, it stands to reason this holiday season, historically a peak period for cyber crime, will see a considerable spike in scams. Here's a list of the top scams to expect, and what to do about them.

First on our list is fake shipping emails and purchase receipts. Have you received one yet? The shipping emails are a step up from what we've seen in the past. They look more authentic, have few or no typos, and often contain real links and phone numbers along with their fake ones. For the purchase receipts, have you received an email from "Amazon" confirming your large dollar purchase? If you haven't received either examples, you very likely will. The general rule applies - don't click or call or rely upon any information in the emails. If you are concerned, then contact the company directly by going to their website and either sending them an email from their website or calling the posted numbers. NEVER interact with the emails you receive. Honestly, this should ALWAYS be your practice, even if you are 100% certain they are legitimate.

Second are scams offering free coupons and gift cards. It's great to get a free gift, but they rarely arrive unexpectedly, and even more rarely arrive from an online retailer. Once again, don't trust what you receive either via email OR via text.

Third are the ubiquitous charity scams. Each year there are thousands of new charities hoping to capitalize on your generosity. It's a challenge to know good ones from bad ones from outright fraudulent ones. These scams come in the form of email, actual mail, and phone calls. The scammers typically employ pressure tactics to get your commitment. Here is a list of signs to look out for:

  • The organization refuses to give clear details about its mission, identity, associated costs or how the donations are used
  • The organization doesn’t provide proof of its tax-deductible status
  • The organization uses a name that is very similar to a reputable, better-known organization
  • Users receive thanks for donations that you don’t remember giving
  • The organization uses high-pressure methods to urge recipients to donate immediately without giving you ample time to research
  • The organization asks for cash-only donations or a money wire

Fourth on our list is fake Airbnb or other short term rental property listings and fake airline ticket solicitations. That's right, that free airfare and $100 a night Tuscany Villa in Italy is probably a scam - that means if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The platforms who promote short term rentals do their best to ferret out fake locations and listings, but they're far from perfect. The result is people fall for these scams year-round, and they peek this time of year. As a general rule, look for sites with many photos, many reviews, and NEVER pay cash if that is the request. These scams are spread through emails and phone calls, so be on the look out for both.

Finally, since the reality of validation falls on your shoulders, here's a free tool you can use to verify the legitimacy of a website. This tool provides many other features. It even checks to see if a legitimate website is compromised - another common tactic used by cyber criminals. The site is https://www.urlvoid.com/ and it may just save your Holiday. Thanks Dr. K for sharing this with us.

Our Acentec family wishes all of you an amazing Holiday Season. Thank you for reading.

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