Thieves operate all year round, of course, but Christmas is a wonderful season for them. While for most of us, it is a season of giving, for these people, it is a season of receiving … other people’s money. Our wallets are open, we are busy making purchases, and we are too busy to make our usual checks on the integrity of those who are taking our money.
There’s one golden rule that applies at all times, and one which we should always bear in mind, not just at Christmas:
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Social media is full of amazing-sounding bargains. Expensive electronic gadgets which you recently saw advertised, now available at a quarter of the price. Vouchers promising amazing discounts. But hurry – “limited stocks – when they’re gone, they’re gone”.
Too good to be true? Usually. When your money’s gone, it’s gone, and nothing’s going to bring it back, and the thing you ordered is never going to arrive. Look out for some warning signs:
- How are they asking for payment? Beware of odd methods of payment, such as money orders or wire transfer.
- If the item being offered is a known named brand, check the prices elsewhere. If the photo just looks like a photo of a known brand, but minus the name, the odds are that the purported seller is simply offering a Photoshopped image.
- If you are asked to make payment through the site, make sure that the payment portals are genuine, and not something like “http://paypa1.com.securepay.ru” – malicious harvesters of credit card details. Obviously, this also applies to the site itself – if it appears to be a known site, double-check to make sure that it is real and not a fake site (check the registration details – most browsers have a way to do this, or visit ‘whois.com’).
- If you’re buying gift cards, make sure that they are from a reputable seller. Gift cards are an easy way for fraudsters and thieves to launder their takings from stolen credit cards. They are desirable and hold their value.
He’s making a list…
And so might you – but your Christmas gift wish list might be read by the wrong people, who can extract information from it which can be used in further scams. Make sure your list can be read only by those you want to read it, and not by the bad guys.
Sob stories may be simply that – stories
But it’s not just our wallets that open at Christmas. We open our hearts to others, helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Scammers take advantage of our generosity and our good nature by posing as charities and good causes. If you are going to give money to help others, either online or in real life, do make sure that the recipient is genuine, and who they claim to be, just as you would with any online transaction.
Oh, and just one more thing…
We often buy a lot of things online for delivery later. So many, perhaps, that we can’t remember what we bought, or when it was meant to be delivered. So when you get an email message from a delivery company telling you that they have been unable to deliver a package, and inviting you to click the link to arrange a re-delivery, make sure that the link is genuine. It may be a site that delivers malware to your system, or some other sort of scam.
If you suspect any kind of hacking, malware or other digital threat, First Response is here to help you.