The holiday season is here, and these days, that is synonymous with online shopping. You can find tons of sales and bargains on the internet over the winter, but there is also increased risk. Scammers, phishers, and other bad actors ramp up their activity during the holidays, looking to steal your information, install malware onto your computer, and hurt your wallet.
According to Tim Bucher, president of local IT service provider BucherTech, the most common threat during the holiday season are phishing schemes. Phishing is when someone sends fraudulent emails misrepresenting themselves as a reputable company to entice people into revealing personal information, usually passwords or credit/debit card numbers.
“People are anxious right now,” Bucher said. “They want to get that Christmas present, they want to avoid a problem, and they want to see the latest CDC reports or get the latest updates on their shipments. Everyone is just a bit more frantic right now, and that’s what gets you into trouble.”
Phishing emails are designed to look like they are from companies like Amazon, UPS, and other service providers that are sending out a lot of emails over the holidays. They often promise incredible deals, which at first glance seem to make sense since most legitimate companies are running sales during this time of year. That makes it important to stay vigilant and be thorough about vetting every email.
“They’ll appear to offer you deals that look too good to be true,” Bucher said. “They’ll say, ‘you’ve got, you’ve got, you’ve got to get this limited time deal.’ A good rule of thumb is if it sounds too good to be true, don’t click. If they’re trying to sell you a sold-out Xbox, that should make you wonder.”
Other schemes might fake a problem with shipping, to capitalize on people’s worries that their gifts might not arrive before Christmas.
“You might see something that says there’s a shipment waiting for you, but they need you to log in and correct the address,” he said. “You might not even have ordered anything, and you’ll get those emails. It’ll even have an email address you trust, but email addresses can get spoofed all the time. It’s easy to make an email look like it’s from somebody else, so always check the content.”
If you see a suspicious deal, a worrisome shipping report, or anything else that leaves you even a little bit skeptical, take your time and proceed with caution. Instead of clicking a link in the email, visit the site by typing it into the address bar and verify that the content of the email is real or not.
“It’s down to building good browsing habits,” Bucher said. “Over half of all fraud is initiated through email.”
To learn more about BucherTech, visit them at https://buchertech.com/.