SPOT Cybersecurity Tip: The Holidays Are Scam Season

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year… until you get scammed. Get your cup of coffee and spend 5 minutes learning about the latest Holiday Season scams.

Social Media Scams

  • Phishy Buyers – Online selling platforms and social media marketplaces can make it easy to connect with buyers for your old items. But scammers don’t only pose as sellers. Be wary of buyers who 1) ask to move the conversation to another platform, 2) overpay for an item unprompted, 3) ask for your personal information, and/or 4) don’t have a profile picture or information.
  • Bait & Switch Posts – Scammers are making attention-grabbing posts about missing children or injured animals, urging users to share them to spread the word. After users have reposted the message, the scammer switches it to show a link to a survey that “guarantees cash prizes” or a fake ad for a rental property. Since this still shows up on the user’s page as a repost, many of their online friends might think they are recommending the link. If interacted with, these ads often lead to malware or identity theft. To avoid playing a role in these scams, look into the person doing the original posting, do a reverse image search, and check if the supposed news has been reported by other outlets before reposting.
  • Fake Employee Discounts – Scammers are posting to social media pretending to be ex-employees of a store. They claim to be “seeking revenge” on their previous employer by offering their employee discount to followers. They claim the discount gets you items for free; you just have to pay for shipping. Once an order is placed, the website disappears, or they refuse refunds. Users are left with no item or a cheap knockoff. If a post seems phishy, report it to the social media platform.

Holiday Shopping Tips

  • Avoid buying presents through suggested social media ads before researching.
  • Always research and read reviews before buying from a new company.
  • Shop with a credit card since they offer more help with fraudulent charges.
  • Limit the personal information that you share with a website to only that which is necessary for the purchase, and don’t save card details.
  • Check the store or item policy for returns and refunds before purchasing. One sign of a scam is a website that does not offer returns or refunds or does not outline their policies clearly anywhere.
  • Be wary of deals and discounts. Especially around the holidays, it can be difficult to identify the real sales from the phony ones. The best way to do this is to stick to deals and discounts offered by reputable companies. If a deal is real, it should be announced on the official website.

Cautionary Scam Story

As the holidays approached, Ed planned to meet some family and friends out for dinner. When the day finally came, he drove to the restaurant and parked his car in a lot nearby. Ed walked over to the pay station and noticed it had a QR code on the side of it that said, “Scan & Park”. Ed examined the machine. It looked old and had some buttons missing. He decided it would be easier to scan the QR code and pay for the parking digitally. After entering his card details, email address, and phone number, he waited for a confirmation message. But the message never came. Eager to get to dinner, Ed shrugged it off and continued on his way to the restaurant. The night was going great until Ed walked back to his car after dinner. Not only did he have a parking ticket, but when he went back to the website from the QR code and examined it closely, he realized it didn’t have any details related to an official parking company. That’s when Ed realized he should have examined the website before entering his personal information.

Have a wonderful holiday season and invite others to subscribe to SPOT Cybersecurity Tips!