‘Tis the season for scammers

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Imagery Magestic

Many of us let our guard down during the holiday season. It’s just so cheery and bright and sparkly, that our attention turns elsewhere. Unfortunately, because of the hustle and bustle, we overlook the red flags that are usually so obvious.

Here’s a quick round up of 7 top holiday scams: (Swans-a-Swimming not included)

1) Giftcards

Nearly every major retailer (even supermarkets) offers gift cards at checkout stands and even on “virtual mall” racks. Most of these cards have scratch off codes to prevent information theft. However, if cards are not protected, those codes can be written down for later use. Then, all a scammer has to do is call the 800 number until the card is activated, see how much it’s for, and then put in claim for a lost card to get a renewal. It seems like a lot of work, but the reward can be great.

Also, never buy a used gift card online. Sometimes people will sell them, claiming that there is money still left when there isn’t.

2) Online Greeting Cards

Online Greeting cards can be fun and interactive, and who doesn’t like seeing a 30 second song staring your friends dressed up as holiday elves? But be aware of any suspicious links or attachments that are sent to you! If an online greeting card wants you to open a .exe or .dmg file in order to view the greeting, most likely you’re being scammed into downloading viruses on to your computer. Online greeting cards usually send clickable links, not downloadable files.

3) “It” gifts:

Did you hear about the lady who bought an iPad at a gas station? It sounds like the beginning of a joke…but it actually happened. And, *gasp* the iPad was fake! I know! Who would have thought? Click for the the full story

4) Facebook Promotions

Cyber scammers come out in full force during the holidays. After all, who doesn’t want to win prizes or get a deal during the holidays. (Sometimes the story of the deal is more exciting than the actual product itself!)

Unfortunately, scammers know that prizes and giveaways are amazingly popular and they hit Facebook with phony promotions and contents with the goal of getting your personal information. Don’t believe it! Check out FaceCrooks.com. It’s an amazing resource that will keep you up to date on all kinds of Facebook scams.

5) Parking Lot Thieves

Have you ever noticed how busy stores get during the holidays, even at normal 9-5 business hours? Thieves know this, and they case mall parking lots with the assumption that you’ll be away from home for a few hours. (Movie theaters are especially vulnerable.) The thieves break into your car, take your registration, but leave everything else undisturbed. Then, knowing you’re not at home, they head to your house and rob you.

Best thing to do: carry your registration and any personally identifying information with you. Yes, we’re used to keeping it in the glove compartment, but that’s the first place they look!

6) I’m Not Home: Please Rob Me!

You should know by now that posting information about an upcoming vacation or time away from home is pretty much an open invite to thieves. Even if you think your privacy settings are locked down tight, Facebook changes these settings constantly, with little warning, and usually makes the default “public.” If you use your real name on Facebook, thieves could find your home with a quick online search. Additionally, if you post photos from your phone online, there is metadata embedded, giving the location of where the photo was taken. Yes. It’s creepy.

Want to see how public your personal information is? Simply set up a fake secondary Facebook profile to see what information the public can see on your profile. You can also play around with Facebook’s settings, but I find that looking through the lens of a completely different profile is much more informative.

7) Package deliveries

This is the time of year when most retail stores (and delivery services) make their money. It’s very realistic for the average person to get at least 2-10 packages before the end of the year. Phishers will take advantage of the holiday season by sending out spoof emails stating that you have a package delivery from UPS (or FexEx or USPS or whoever) and you have to fill out an attached form to get it delivered. DON’T OPEN THE ATTACHMENT! It could have malware, or it could just ask for a lot of personal information, financial verification, your physical address, and a lot of other creepy stuff. If you’re waiting for packages, go directly to the courier’s website and enter in your tracking code. Don’t just blindly trust an email from a courier service…most likely, it’s fake.

Happy (non-scammy) Holidays!


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