7 Online Scams To Be Aware Of This Christmas

Cybercriminals have been quick to exploit the rise in online shopping in the wake of the pandemic and lockdowns, and unfortunately, now with Christmas upon us, scams are ramping up. Criminals’ prime targets including those buying electronic goods – such as smartphones, the new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, […]

Cybercriminals have been quick to exploit the rise in online shopping in the wake of the pandemic and lockdowns, and unfortunately, now with Christmas upon us, scams are ramping up.

Criminals’ prime targets including those buying electronic goods – such as smartphones, the new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, as well as bicycles and branded goods.

There’s also been a rise in delivery scams, phishing emails and text messages pretending to be from DPD and Royal Mail. Such emails claim that you have missed a delivery and asks you to click on a link to reschedule, where you are then asked to enter your personal information and bank details.

Scams that steal personal data are picking up the pace as cybercriminals seek to siphon personal information (payment card data, email addresses etc.) for identity fraud.

So this means that you need to be more alert than ever to ensure you’re shopping safely this Christmas to avoid being at risk. Here, award-winning cybersecurity company, BullGuard, shares seven top tips to help shoppers identify and defeat emerging online scams during the Christmas shopping period.

1. Counterfeit goods

Unfortunately, the internet is awash with fake goods. One of the main tell-tale signs is if the product is suspiciously cheap, however, higher-quality counterfeits can be more expensive.

‘For instance, genuine Jordan Four trainers can retail for up to several hundred pounds. “Good quality” Jordan Four counterfeits are sold for £60 to £70 and upwards leading the buyer into mistakenly thinking they have bagged a bargain. When shopping online, don’t be fooled by low prices for expensive goods and stick to reputable websites when making online purchases,’ BullGuard warns.

cosy living room winter interior with fireplace, presents ordered online and delivered wait in front of fireplace

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2. Purchase scams

You can often pick up a bargain at an online marketplace or auction website, but this is also where you can be defrauded. The basic ploy is simple; you part with your money but don’t receive the items you paid for. The item details and photos are often copied from a real seller’s listing, so it will look very real, but the low price will be too good to be true.

‘If a seller, or buyer, tries to persuade you to go outside the website’s usual process or payment methods, it’s a big red flag,’ explains BullGuard. ‘When buying or selling on a website that offers protections to buyers and sellers, take advantage of it.’

3. Christmas e-cards

Scam Christmas e-cards contain malicious software hidden in animations, pictures, videos, or a link to a hacker-controlled website. Be wary of emails that push you in the direction of e-cards and if you receive an email that looks suspicious, trust your instincts. Don’t open it, don’t click any links, and don’t download any attachments. If malware is downloaded it is likely to be a banking Trojan or a form of spyware, both of which are designed to steal your sensitive data. Make sure you are using good antivirus software to detect malware.

typing digital christmas card

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4. Fake websites

In order to identify fake websites, the first thing to look for is the https:// at the beginning of the URL (or web address). The S in https:// stands for ‘secure’ and indicates that the website uses encryption to transfer data, protecting it from hackers. You might also notice a padlock before the https:// which also means the website can be trusted.

If a website uses http:// (no S), it doesn’t mean that a website is a scam, but you shouldn’t make payments over it. Another thing to look out for is poor grammar. Fake websites are also unlikely to have Help and Contact pages.

5. Emails that urge quick action

Phishing emails are commonplace for cyber-villains and during the Christmas period it’s likely that you’ll have quite a few landing in your inbox, offering discounts, products and services, and even parcel deliveries. The goal of these phishing emails is usually to harvest your personal data for identity fraud.

‘If they urge quick action, this is a strong sign that it’s a scam. Be patient and don’t respond to pressure because cybercriminals are hoping you will reveal personal information such as payment card details, name and address, and so on,’ BullGuard explains.

6. Gift card scams

Scam Christmas gift cards are usually promoted via social media networks, like Facebook or Twitter, and claim to offer exclusive deals such as an Amazon gift card that gives the holder discounts. However, scammers are looking to steal your personal information. Don’t click suspicious links on social media websites, even when a ‘special offer’ comes from a friend, and don’t complete online surveys that ask for your personal information.

christmas gift card in opened box in christmas setting

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7. Fake charities

‘The season of goodwill presents opportunities for scammers who either create bogus charities and appeal for donations through a website or misuse a charity’s name and appeal on their behalf,’ reveals BullGuard. ‘If in doubt about a charity, simply avoid it or check with the Charities Commission website where you can find full details of every registered charity within seconds by using the search tool.’

• IMPORTANT •

If you have been the victim of online fraud or identity theft, report the crime or incident to Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting service, and the starting point for any police investigation into your loss.

If you have been a victim of cyber crime and you need help to manage the impact that the crime has had on you, contact Victim Support.

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