Fakes: How scammers are targeting you this holiday season

With Christmas less than 60 days away, the shopping season has already begun, which means scammers are on the lookout for some holiday happiness of their own in the form of your money and information. In order to keep you abreast of the latest holiday scams we spoke to Fred Touchette, a security analyst who writes about security threats at the Digital Degenerate for AppRiver, to learn what to watch for as you start your holiday shopping.

Scams don't wait for the holidays, but scammers do take advantage of the increased shopping and distraction when things get busy to take your money and personal information. Fred shared the following three Holiday specific scams with WalletPop so that you don't get taken this year.

Holiday Specific Scams
  • Fake holiday eCards – If you don't recognize the sender, delete it. If the email is not addressed to you specifically, delete it. If you're instructed to download an "executable program," delete it.
  • Fake holiday Products – Often promoted via spam emails. Always do your research. If you don't recognize a company, don't order anything from them until you're sure they really exist.
  • Letters from Santa – Although a nice idea for the kids; do your research. There are many companies out there that are fake; taking your money and never delivering a letter to your kid.
As a corporate email user I was already familiar with the fake eCards intended to install a virus on your computer, but I was surprised to learn about the prevalence of fake holiday products and unscrupulous individuals trying to make a fast buck by pretending to mail letters from Santa.

Fred warned that most often the holiday product scams are ones we are already familiar with: fake watches and pharmaceuticals dressed up for Christmas. He also cautioned to be on the lookout for hot products. For example, Fred explained, "last year there were a lot of fake Snuggie sites" that took money and failed to deliver a warm and comfy Christmas.

"Research", Fred told WalletPop, "is the key to avoiding all of these holiday scams." Two easy ways to quickly verify the authenticity of a product or website is to look for a Better Business Bureau listing of the company and to look out for stores that only accept wire transfers or MoneyGrams. If you come across an email offer that contains any of these items, Fred warns: "These are a big sign that you need to run away."

In addition to these Holiday specific scams, Fred also wants you to be on the lookout for old favorites like:
  • PayPal/eBay phishing – Avoid following links that are provided for you in an email, especially if you are unsure of the sender. A frequent trick from spammers during the holidays is linking to a fake eBay or PayPal log-in page. Rather than follow links in emails, type the URL directly into your browser.
  • Bank phishing – Banks will never ask for your personal information, or provide your personal information, in an email. Also, keep an eye out for poor spelling and grammar. If you are not specifically addressed in the email, delete it.
When you go shopping this season stay smart and avoid these scams so that you can have a happy holiday season without losing any money and time dealing with scams and identity theft.
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