How To Avoid Ho-Ho-Hoaxes This Holiday Season
The winter holidays are the biggest shopping season for retailers. Everyone is online looking up holiday recipes, buying things, contacting family, downloading winter themed screensavers. Is it no surprise then that, as a result, the holidays are also one of the easiest times for cybercrimes to be committed?
Well, if you've ever been disappointed by a present during the holidays, the damages caused by cybercrime could make those feelings pale in comparison. As such, here's a list of a few holiday hoaxes you need to look out for this holiday season. Hopefully they'll keep you saying "Ho-Ho-Ho!" rather than "No-No-No!"
Number One: Phishing
Phishing is a term for communications which are sent by criminals with the intent of collecting sensitive personal information. This can be done through email, fake websites, in person, over the phone, or virtually anywhere.
The actual content of a phishing message is designed so that the target provides a quick reply, often by claiming there is some sort of urgent need for a response. They often work by requiring you to confirm or update your account information, or face some array of negative consequences.
Here is an example of what you might see this holiday:
Dear valued customer,
We have recently noticed a number of suspicious withdrawals from your bank account. As a safety measure, please confirm or refute these charges by sending your account number to the email address below.
We are happy you have chosen to do business with us.
Here's what you can do to help protect yourself from this threat.
Be suspicious of any unsolicited message containing urgent requests for private information. If you receive such a message, contact the organization using a phone number from a credible source.
Simply put, never respond with personal or financial information via email.
Number Two: Malware
When you think viruses you usually think of email attachments and seedy websites. Most people never consider the potential danger hiding behind those "free" animated holiday e-cards, screensavers, and games. While plenty are completely legitimate, the high traffic to these holiday-themed websites makes them a prime location for spyware, adware, and a plethora of other malware.
The malware delivered by these websites can be benign, delivering ads, or incredibly harmful, logging your passwords, account information, and more.
Anti-virus and anti-malware software can go a long way towards mitigating these risks; however, it's also important to just be cautious about what you access online. There's no clear-cut way to protect yourself from these threats, but you don't need to be an expert to avoid malware online. Simply avoid downloading or installing anything you find to be suspicious no matter how tempting the offer.
Number Three: Online Fraud
Most people have some concerns about shopping online. While these concerns aren't always the most accurate, they're not incorrect in being concerned. Fraudulent websites and online listings tend to increase around the holidays. A typo may take you to aBey rather than eBay, or the price on that popular holiday gift may seem too good to be true. Whatever the case may be, there are a few things to look out for that are good signs you're dealing with something illegitimate.
Check the URL: Make sure the URL you are at is the same as the website where you want to be. If the website says it is eBay, but the URL says it is cheapimportgoods.biz, then something's not right.
Compare prices: If the price on an item seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Some online services provide insurance if these deals fall short, but it's better to simply avoid winding up in that situation in the first place.
Be suspicious: This goes back to the previous two points. If something feels wrong or if the prices seem too good to be true, just stop. Research the website or the listing online, ask someone at the retailer, or simply ask your friends whether or not the website seems legitimate - there is strength in numbers.