With the holiday season in full swing, many of us see our inboxes inundated with emails from companies offering a plethora of deals, steals, and sales that seem entirely too good to be true. The increased busyness surrounding the holiday season can often make it a challenge to shop around for the best deals on the items on your list.
Scammers are aware of just how short on time we all can be this time of year. They will take advantage of your busy schedule to attempt to scam you. An email from what looks to be an authentic business with a great deal could be just the thing you need to take care of some of the items and people on your shopping list.
The concern is that the email may not be from that favorite retailer. The offers detailed in the email may actually be too good to be true.
What are these cybercriminals looking to accomplish with their emails? More often than not, they are looking for financial gain. We’ve assembled a list of some of the most commonly seen email scams to be aware of.
Gift card phishing email scams
This scam can be seen making the rounds every year, with a few variations. Some potential victims will receive emailed offers for free gift cards, loyalty gifts, and other offers that could appeal to the recipient.
The email may try to entice you into clicking on links that offer the promise of those free gifts or steeply discounted items. Don’t fall for it. It can take just one click on the wrong email for you to risk the security of your personal information. You may unknowingly install malicious software onto your device, or you may be led to a phony website that asks for your bank account login credentials, credit card, or other personal information.
- Verify the sender address of each email before you click on a link.
- Don’t click on any link in an email unless you can verify that it is from a sender you can trust.
- Stay vigilant during this busy season. You may really want that gift card promised by your bank or a retailer, but the odds are good that it’s a phishing scam.
Gift exchanges making the social media rounds
Making the rounds every year, most often on social media, this scam can take on a few variations. The scheme revolves around exchanging books, scarves, bottles of wine, or $10 gift cards. Some may have you add your information and the info for your family and friends to a list where other participants can pick from the list and send cash to pay it forward.
This sounds nice, in theory. The problem is that you’re willingly sharing your personal information and quite often the personal info of your family and friends. As a result, your info can be used by cybercriminals. You, your family, and friends can also be fooled into purchasing gifts or sending money to strangers. This is very similar to a pyramid scheme.
A popular alternative to sending a physical Christmas card, an eCard may be used by a cyber scammer to retrieve your personal information. You may be asked to share personal details or send money to open the eCard. If the sender's name isn’t familiar, or the email you receive asks for private information or to send money, it could be a scam. In addition, if there is a .exe attachment, you may be inadvertently downloading and installing a virus or another type of malware.
Email alerts about a compromised account
Have you received an email letting you know that one of your accounts has been compromised? These emails can be seen year-round, but it may be easier to let your guard down during the busy end-of-year season. Perhaps your bank account has been compromised? It could be your streaming service or favorite retail website login credentials. Would-be victims will be notified by email or a text message, urging them to take action to protect their account immediately.
Be aware when you receive an alert about one of your accounts. Go directly to the website or app instead of clicking on a link in an email or text.
Look-alike scam websites
You know that the holiday season will bring with it countless emails offering you bargains. But, be wary about the emails and the links within them. Some of them may take you to look-alike websites that are built by cybercriminals to trick you into sharing private details, downloading malware, or making a dead-end purchase you never receive.
Fake charitable donations
The last weeks of the year can lead to an increase in charitable requests from authentic non-profit organizations. Scammers take advantage of this by pretending to be charities in need of donations. If an email tugs at your heartstrings and leads you to think about donating, take a minute to verify the organization. Where it’s possible, make your donation directly through the charity’s website.
Fake notifications of a shipped package
With increasing numbers of online purchases, there is also an influx of shipping notifications from both retailers and carriers. Scammers take advantage of this surge in emails to send out phishing emails that include links that may install malware on your device or access your info. They could also try to get you to pay shipping fees on a package that has been stuck due to insufficient shipping fee coverage. It may be just a few dollars, but those few dollars can add up to hundreds of thousands from one scam email sent out to thousands.
Be vigilant this season when you get emails from retailers, couriers, and what looks to be a great Christmas deal. Just a few extra seconds verifying the information in an email can help to protect your identity, your accounts, and your peace of mind.