It’s important to be extra careful of holiday scams during the busy shopping season.
Scammers and hackers will find vulnerable targets no matter what season it is, but the holiday season can be an excellent pool for unsuspecting marks. With the increase in spending and shipping, it’s easy to lose track of emails, packages and even credit card information.
Remember the old adage: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
This year, we have the added stress of COVID-related scams threatening businesses (like hospitals) and the elderly. Scams target personal medical information and can then fraudulently bill federal health care programs and commit medical identity theft.
It’s a vicious cycle to prove fraud for those who fall victim.
Consumer scams of the 2020 holiday season
CNET gathered a scam list of the common schemes this year. Here are a few of the top ways they’re warning consumers to be aware and stay safe.
- Facebook fail. If someone on Facebook tags you to join a “Secret Sister” gift exchange this holiday season, beware — it might be little more than a pyramid scheme dressed up for the holidays.
- Don’t go phishing. A survey by cybersecurity company McAfee reports that 41% of Americans fell victim to email phishing schemes in 2019. Phishing can be through email or text, asking you to confirm your protected payment information or log in information for important websites.
A few more consumer scams are detailed by the FBI.
- Don’t go when it’s too low. Extremely low prices on brand-name merchandise are a hook for unsuspecting consumer spenders. Sites may offer products at a great price, but the products being sold are not the same as the products advertised.
- Special coupons are a scam. Other untrustworthy sites or ads offer items at unrealistic discounts or with special coupons. Victims offer personal information and credit card details, then receive nothing in return.
- Gift cards are no gift. Be careful if someone asks you to purchase gift cards for them. In these scams, the victims received either a spoofed email, a spoofed phone call, or a spoofed text from a person in authority requesting the victim purchase multiple gift cards for either personal or business reasons.
- Charities that don’t give back. Charity scam solicitations may come through cold calls, email campaigns, crowdfunding platforms, or fake social media accounts and websites. Charity fraud also rises during the holiday season, when individuals seek to make end-of-year tax deductible gifts or are reminded of those less fortunate and wish to contribute to a good cause.
- Rise of COVID-19 pandemic relief charity scams. Fraudulent charity scams, in which perpetrators set up false charities and profit from individuals who believe they are making donations to legitimate charitable organizations, are common after disasters, which the FBI has seen during the COVID pandemic.
COVID-19 scams and fraud alerts
The FBI and Office of the Inspector General are warning the general public as well as health systems about the potential for scams during the pandemic.
Predators prey on the fear associated with the virus. Savvy bad actors are selling fake testing kits, fraudulent labs are drawing blood and billing federal health care programs for medically unnecessary services, and more.
Scammers are also using social media to perpetrate COVID-19-related scams. In one major scheme, fraudsters hack social media accounts and send direct messages to beneficiaries while posing as a friend or government employee.
If you suspect COVID-19 health care fraud, report it immediately online or call 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).
Get expert security advice to stay safe
The best way to stay ahead of scams and hackers is to depend on the experts who study the industry every day. Count on the team at Cyber Solutions Technologies to keep cybersecurity for your business our #1 priority.
If you’d like more information about how to keep your business safe, contact us today for an expert consultation.