If it’s the end of the year then that means it’s time for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the annual ramp up of holiday-related scams, phishing, and other related online naughtiness. If only Santa had enough room on his Naughty List for all of the digital scammers!
It seems like every year the “bad kids” of the online world all seem to come together to get some year-end maliciousness out of their system. Increases in email spam, fake friend requests on social networking sites, and identity theft are part and parcel for the holiday season and this year is no different. If anything the current economic problems in America and the rest of the world make us all more likely to be a victim of holiday scams since we’re all on the hunt for great deals and looking for a way to stretch our holiday budgets.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the more common scams, schemes, and potential problems that you’ll find this year:
- Fake gift cards
A perennial favorite, fake gift cards are often touted as being sold for cheaper than their original price (e.g. a $25.00 gift card being sold for $10.00), but many times are either completely fake, stolen and worth no money, or have had most if not all of their value used already. We suggest that you avoid these at all cost unless you get them from the store they are actually from (like Amazon.com gift cards) or another reputable vendor.
- Fake charities
Organizations like the United Way, Red Cross, and Toys for Tots do wonders for people across the country, but be careful when making a donation. Be sure that the representative you’re talking to is actually working for a charitable organization and not his or her own pocketbook.
- Holiday e-cards
Even though the real ones can be fun, e-cards in general have been known to mask trojans and spyware that are installed on your PC without your knowledge. Be especially careful when you receive an e-card in your inbox during the holidays.
- Lyric websites
When looking for Christmas carols you might end up finding malware. Many lyric sites are chock-full of advertising, popups, and it’s easy to accidentally click “OK” on a software install button. Be very careful when getting your play list ready for your carolers.
- Fake websites
These tend to come out of the woodwork and often look very convincing. Identity theft and stolen credit card numbers are the usual gifts that are given to holiday scam artists when they set up a fake website that copies an online store or charitable website. Check out our post on “How to Spot a Fake Website” for additional details on how to know which are fake and which are real.
- Online fraud
eBay, CraigsList, and other online auction and shopping sites have great deals and a lot of hard-to-find gifts. They also have a lot of fraud associated with them since anyone with an email address can set up an account. Make sure to look for user ratings if possible (eBay in particular has a pretty darn good rating system for buyers and sellers) to see what a seller’s track record is like before you click on the buy button.
We hope that you find these tips useful this holiday season, and we wish you and yours the very happiest of holidays! And if you’ve got kids and they’re still young enough to believe in Santa Claus, check out this Naughty or Nice form that asks a few questions and lets them know what list they are on.