Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Holiday Scams


Every year while we fulfill our appetites with turkey and ham during the Thanksgiving holiday, cyber attackers stuff their naughty heads with ways to steal away our financial information or identity.

Holiday scams are highly prevalent from Black Friday throughout Christmas.

Our needs and desires during the winter solstice is at its peak while we are rushing to get things done. Balancing our priorities tend to knock us off focus and this deficiency makes us vulnerable to hackers.

Robocalls is only part of their Modus Operandi. Their unseen tentacles can strike from any direction. The best way to maximize our defenses is to understand and expect the type of online scams they will orchestrate.

Lets examine some of these crocked methods and the best practice we can apply in being proactive against cyber predators.

Phoney Websites

Unsolicited emails of a good deal is a tool by cyber attackers to trick victims into downloading malware. Their objective is to steal your identity and take your money.

We can best avoid this scam by doing the following-


  1. Review senders address and be on the lookout for spelling and grammar errors.
  2. Ensure the website begins with HTTPS (secure site AND the S signals it is secure and information is encrypted).
  3. Hover over link in question (to see where it will really direct you to).

Shipping Alerts

Fraudulent emails can also notify you of a shipping status. Don't get hooked by downloading malicious software.


  1. Verify tracking numbers through company's legitimate site rather just click on a suspicious link. Call their customer service from there.
  2. Review if any, previous emails from the business.
  3. Be on the look out for spelling and grammar errors with email content.

Digital Cards

Scammers sometimes cordinates phishing scams by tricking you into downloading bad software. 

  1. Is the sender's name readable?
  2. Are there prompts requesting personal information in order to proceed?
  3. What looks suspicious?
  4. Is there an exe at the end of the email? Certainly X out of that!
While we are on the subject of cards...

Santa's Letters/Natural Disasters/Tragedies

It's no secret cyber attackers will use current events to fool you into sharing personal information and even requesting for your to give money for phony charities. If you can make good practice of being mindful of these tactics you will be ok-

  1. Be always suspicious of unsolicited emails
  2. Research any company offering services or sales
  3. Compare what the sender is offering to other markets
  4. Check out the latest information with the Better Business Bureau
We live in a world where bad news is the focus a majority of the time. Cyber Attackers can take a terrible event, say like a mass shooting, and pretend to be a legitimate organization collecting donations for survivors or victims. Research this diligently before you consider giving.

The Elderly

Senior citizens are gullible targets for senior citizens during the holidays and beyond. They may pose as a grandchild or other relative who needs help as a result of an accident, arrest, or hospitalization. Here are somethings that can be done to offset this. 

  1. Call the family member in question directly before sending anything. 
  2. Talk to other family members about the contact
  3. AVOID wiring money or rendering gift cards
  4. Ask the suspicious caller only questions the relative in question would know. 

Questionable Charities

Similar to pretending to be a relative, con artists pretend to be charities or needy persons. You can always verify a charities status at https://www.give.org

Aside from this, your primary assessment should include suspicious content or information from the source providing it and a review of the charity donation plan. 

If you find out its the real deal, consider donating with a credit card. If there is an issue afterward, your financial institution can assist your with reimbursement. 

Forget about sending a gift card. Once it is in the hands of a cyber attacker, consider it lost forever. 

Employment Scams

This is done primarily to fish for your private information. Don't be a candidate for identity theft! Prospective employers are not going to contact you if you don't complete an application. 

If you get a call for a job offer you never initiated, that there alone is red flags. 

  1. Just apply for positions in person or directly on retailer's websites. 
  2. Avoid sharing personal information on the phone
  3. Definitely don't pay for anything. 

Weird Types of Payment

You may see or hear about a great deal for an awesome product or service in pop up ads and unsolicited emails. Beware and exercise caution. 

  1. Don't make requested payments with prepaid debit cards, wire transfers, or payments on apps such as Venmo. 
  2. Investigate. Investigate, Investigate. 

Free Gift Card Scams

Cyber Attackers are mimicking specialty shops when they target people with ads on social media. Again, their intentions is to steal your identity by compelling you to share your personal information. 

  1. Never open a suspicious email as it could be a form of phishing. 
  2. Never trade your information to receive a gift card.
  3. Refrain from clicking on the ad. 
  4. In event this happens, exit out of the website and activate your ad blocker. 

Social Media Exchange

This is important because deliberate participation in this delivery exchange can lead all participants to face a stiff fine or prison time.

Known as the "Pyramid Scheme" or "Secret Sister Scam", this involves a single person purchasing a gift and getting several in return by use of the U.S postal service.

It is a federal violation. There had been cases of scamming participants who willfully engaged in this and sentenced anywhere from 2 to 5 years in prison in addition to financial retribution.

Of course don't give out your telephone number or address. This is a ploy to steal your identity.

Pet Scams

Families searching for a specific breeds are ideal candidates to be lured in this scam. Cyber Attackers uses fake pictures of adorable pets to empty your wallet. 

  1. Always look around at other pet shops or legitimate breeders.
  2. Understand what local breeders have available.
  3. Pay with a Credit Card
  4. Check out customer reviews online
  5. Do a reverse look up of pet online. Does the same picture appear on other websites? 

Travel 

Yes, who wouldn't want a good bargain on air travel or spectacular cruise. 

If there is a marketer out there proposing a vacation package you must do your homework. 

Research the area and services in question. Do the same with the agency, airline, and car rental.

You might end up somewhere that don't look nothing like the beautiful pictures you saw on the Internet or brochure. It is quite easy these days to manufacture eye catching images to win the trust of eager buyers. 

Don't fall for it. 

  1. Be careful with email offers
  2. Don't wire money to a stranger
  3. Ask for travel references. Check customer reviews.
I think Holidays scams are busiest time of the year for Cyber Attackers because we are busy and this is a time when we are at vulnerable. 

Thank you visiting my blog. I will share Cyber Security Awareness tips each week. Please subscribe to my blog to get the latest news and stories to help keep you safe. 

Scattering the Seeds of Knowledge,

Ken Harris














Article highlighting conference

  My latest article in the Point of View Community Magazine highlights my experience performing and speaking at the 13th Annual Florida Pros...