Digital holiday scams – be wary!

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digital holiday scamsby Jeff Mertz, Senior Network Engineer

This holiday season many of us will shop online. It’s important to stay extra vigilant during this busy time and follow basic security principles to prevent exploitation by criminals with digital holiday scams. While you’re out there trying to get the perfect gift for that special someone, the bad guys are out there trying to obtain your sensitive information.

As this McAfee article so festively points out, this season is full of digital holiday scams we should note. From fake charities to mall kiosks with a credit card swipe that steals your data, the shopping season can be dangerous for the unwary shopper.

One of the biggest scams is the shipping or order form phishing email. I received one today in my inbox. It successfully made it through several layers of security filters. The email indicated that UPS needed me to open a shipping invoice because they couldn’t deliver my package. To note, UPS, FedEx, USPS and Santa and his elves do not send attachments with their delivery emails. You should never open these types of attachments or any others that seem out-of-the norm.

Another scam of which to be wary is the “secret door buster” offer. You may receive an email link or phone app offer advertising special deals. If you click or download, your computer or phone could be compromised and its sensitive data stolen.

End-of-year fraudulent offers are common as well. Fake IRS correspondence, illegitimate insurance offers, and retirement plan updates are just a few examples. So while we are eating pie and opening presents, remember to leave those attachments wrapped up and safely under the “delete” tree.

Scams don’t always come in the digital format. You should be wary of phone calls or door-to-door visits seeking donations by check.  Once a scammer has your check in hand, your account could be compromised. If you wish to donate, contact the charity directly.

While all of this may sound more scary than joyous for this holiday season, if you use common sense and practice good security measures, your data should stay secure and protected.

Best wishes for a happy holiday season and a safe New Year from Safety Net!