The festive season is a busy time of year for scammers of all kinds, as people plan to buy more stuff and the market for gifts reaches its peak.

Add in Black Friday, Cyber Monday, the Pre-Christmas sales and the Boxing Day sales and you have an explosion of buying that the scammers want a share of.

Fake Online Shops

A lot of fake online stores appear in December, advertising amazing discounts and bargains of all sorts.  Sometimes, these sites will be easily spotted as the quality is poor – spelling mistakes, bad logos, poor text, poor or non-existent  photographs  etc.as the scammers hope that people will be too rushed to look carefully before buying.

But other scammers put in a lot of effort to basically copy good sales websites and copy their photographs etc.  These are much harder to identify as scams but you should check the domain name and see if it’s an almost duplicate of a famous name e.g. marks-ad-spencers.co.uk

 Sometimes the scammers watch for items that are in demand but in short supply and then offer those products on the fake websites.  Don’t buy from a site you’ve not used before without checking it is legitimate.

Phishing

This is where the scammers try to get your confidential information so they can login to your accounts with financial institutions or retailers and spend your money.

At this time of year they most commonly claim there is a fantastic discount available on some fantastic product but only if you act quickly.

If the scammers can get your credit card details – it’s Christmas for them but not for you.

Shop only with reputable retailers, preferably ones you’ve used before.

Use a credit card where possible as they give better protection against fraud.

Fake Delivery Emails

With people increasingly shopping online and especially at Christmas time, many people have lots of packages arriving and it can be easy to accept a message about a delivery confirmation rather than having to check if you are expecting something.

The scammer sends you a delivery confirmation from a well-known courier company and you just have to confirm the date and location for the delivery. That means clicking on a link to confirm your identity.

The scammer wants that identity information to use for their own illegal activities.

If you get such a message, go to the website directly and check – do not click on a link.

Wish List Scams

Some people post wish lists online of items they would like. This may be for their own benefit e.g. on Amazon or may be for a wedding or other event where people buy you items.  However, if not careful then these lists can give away a lot of information about the writer and this can be used by scammers to then send you phishing messages.

The facts they know about you can be used to make the messages appear genuine.

If you do create a wish list online – make sure it’s set to private so only people you trust can see it.

E-voucher Scams

You may be offered free vouchers by text or email or on social media for popular brands.

As with many scams the scammer wants you to click a link that takes you to a fake website that either sells you none existent products or just takes your confidential information for the scammer to use.

There are many real vouchers on social media and email but the scam ones are usually too good to be true e.g.90% off or totally free products with no need to purchase anything else. 

Social Media Scams

Many of us use social media in a hurry – a quick swipe or click with little thought involved and this can be dangerous. Scammers can copy existing offers and just change where the link takes you or download malware that can search for your passwords or financial information or just copy all of your keystrokes and send them to a scammer.

Take your time with social media – do not click on anything suspicious, even if something appears to have been posted by a friend.

Charity Scams

People are even more charitable at Christmas than other times of year and the scammers go into overdrive with charity based scams.

Mostly these consist of emails asking you to click to donate and the click would take you to a fake charity website.

The appeals are usually very emotional and often copy text from genuine charities.

Sometimes, they are more creative and create what appear to be charity campaigns but all of the money goes to the scammer.

Scammers can be very opportunistic. For example when the California wildfires hit in October 2017, scammers created a series of supposed charities to help stricken people. But they took all of the money raised.

Be careful when making a donation if it’s not to a charity you know well.

Holiday E-Card Scams

People send a lot fewer Christmas cards than they used to even a few years ago and e-cards are more and more popular.

They are fun and a lot cheaper than postage and easier to send now that almost everyone is on email.

But, if you get a message saying you have been sent an e-card then how do you know if it’s real or likely to download malware to your computer?

This is difficult but if you know the sender then there’s a much higher chance that it’s safe than if the sender is unknown to you. This is a case where you want to be sure that the anti-virus and anti-malware is up to date on your computer and never click on links unless you know where it will take you.

Stay safe over the Festive season.

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