Tis the Season to Be....Careful!

With the holiday season officially upon us, it’s important to remain extra diligent and skeptical of the onslaught of enticing bargains, sales and opportunities that are coming. This year is especially important because data shows consumers, after limited spending in 2020 due to the pandemic, are now ready to spend more in anticipation of gathering for the holidays. With the supply chain issues, people are poised to seize an opportunity as soon as it presents itself. Retailers and charities wait all year for the holiday season to appeal to the consumer’s holiday spirit. With just a click of a button you can take advantage of discounts and free shipping as well as help those in need by donating to your favorite charity. Unfortunately, scammers are aware of this too and while they work all year, they prey on the increase of online payments and web usage during the holidays, especially major shopping holidays such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. There is more at stake than just losing money. The bad actors are also looking to steal identities and sell them on the dark web.

Here are some of the most popular scams targeting consumers in 2021.

#Giving Tuesday and Beyond Many people increase their charitable giving during the holiday season to give back, save on taxes or promote charitable deeds. Scammers are ready and waiting to swoop in. Giving Tuesday is a global generosity movement built by a broad coalition of partners and is supported by reputable organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, LinkedIn for Nonprofits and The Ford Motor Company. Today, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is the annual day of giving when multitudes of organizations perform charitable acts and solicit donations for their respective causes. With over $2.47 billion raised in 2020, there is no argument that this movement is effective. Sadly, with popularity comes bad actors. According to nonprofit rating site, Charity Navigator, roughly 40% of all charitable donation solicitations are made in the last few weeks of the year. Swindles pop up in the form of donation solicitations via email, social media and text. Before you give, make sure the charity is legit by checking sites such as Charity Navigator and the BBB’s Give.org If you receive a request that is suspect, try giving directly to a channel you know is correct such as the organization’s website. If you think something is a scam report it to the organization and to the FTC Charity Fraud Department. And most importantly, make sure to follow our best practices to avoid falling victim to a cyber scam.

Gift Card Scams

The supply chain worries this year will steer more people toward gift cards instead of trying to navigate the delivery of a gift. In fact, gift cards are expected to increase 27% this holiday season. Common gift card scams include swindlers telling people to pay a fee with a gift card to avoid trouble with the government or pretending to be a family member or friend who needs the funds for a specific store. Among hackers, gift cards are the preferred payment method with one in four people reporting fraud to the Federal Trade Commission. According to the FTC, whenever someone demands payment with a gift card, it’s a hoax.

Package Delivery Scams

During the pandemic, millions of Americans took advantage of online shopping. With the help of “package tracking” through websites, calls and text messages, scammers found a new opportunity to steal. Text messages and calls look like they’re from a legitimate delivery service or package courier, such as the U.S. Postal Service, and include a fake tracking link. The link either leads to a website asking the visitor for personal information or it may install malware on the device. If you receive a message about an unexpected package delivery, or delay in delivery, always remain cautious before moving forward. You can identify harmful links by checking for any misspelled words, such as “fedx.com”. When in doubt, contact the courier directly for correct information about deliveries.

Fake Gift Exchanges (Secret Santa / Secret Sister)

The holidays bring an immensely popular means to show the spirit through “Gift Exchanges” or “Secret Santa” & “Secret Sister” exchanges. These are especially popular at the office and among families and friends. When one pops up on social media, treat it as a scam. This year the Better Business Bureau is warning about the “Secret Sister gift exchange, which targets people on social media. It promises participants they will receive up to 36 gifts in exchange for sending one gift, such as a bottle of wine or buying a $10 gift online. To take part, it asks for your name, address and information about friends. While it may sound fun to exchange gifts and “pay it forward” this is usually an illegal pyramid scheme in disguise.

Temporary Holiday Jobs Scams

For retailers, including Amazon.com, the holidays are the busiest time of year, and they need temporary workers to handle the increase. These positions are a wonderful way to make extra money, but scammers see an opportunity to trick job seekers. Sometimes, a job posting asks an applicant to pay for supplies or training fees. They also promise high wages for routine tasks, such as stuffing envelopes or answering phones. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Another red flag for seasonal work is a job posting that asks applicants to work for free. Always request an official offer letter and confirmation in writing of the job duties and the compensation amount before completing any work.

 

Roark Tech Services is constantly on the lookout for scams so we may warn our clients. We are experts in cybersecurity and cybercrime, uniquely qualified to aid small businesses and help them stay safe & competitive. Always consult with us first. If you don’t have an IT Partner that you can trust to give you the right support and advice, we’d love to help. Contact us. Happy Holidays!

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