As consumers prepare for the festive season, it can be an opportunity for cybercriminals to take advantage of increased online activity to gain access to sensitive data.
Last year, An Garda Síochána issued a warning to consumers, stating that online fraud was on the rise at Christmas time.
To help them to keep their personal information safe, Irish IT services company IT.ie is encouraging consumers to “channel their inner Scrooge” by fiercely protecting their data and hard-earned money from criminals.
“Scammers prey on the urgency and emotion of the season, often creating scenarios that require immediate action or payment”
This year, the message is clear: be a Scrooge with your private and financial data – or it might become a gift for criminals.
Be a scrooge with your data
“This Christmas, we are telling everyone to emulate Scrooge’s cautious nature by guarding their personal and financial data against online fraud,” said Eamon Gallagher, founder and managing director of IT.ie.
“It is essential to approach holiday shopping and online interactions with a heightened sense of awareness. Take a moment to assess the legitimacy of an offer, whether it’s an amazing deal on a gift, a charity appeal, or a sudden job opportunity.
“Scammers prey on the urgency and emotion of the season, often creating scenarios that require immediate action or payment. It is important that everyone educates themselves and their loved ones about these scams as a crucial step in safeguarding their personal and financial information. Sharing this knowledge with friends and family, especially those who may be more vulnerable, can help to ensure scammers don’t get any early Christmas presents this year. Shop safe, shop secure and shop smart this Christmas!”
The 12 Scams of Christmas that consumers need to look out for are:
Sophisticated phishing emails
These emails are crafted with advanced techniques such as artificial intelligence, making them look almost identical to those from reputable brands. They often lure victims with fake alerts or offers, leading to sites that steal personal information. IT.ie advises everyone to verify the email’s authenticity and avoid clicking on links or attachments from unknown sources. If in doubt, don’t click.
Social media ad scams
Scammers use social media platforms to post ads for exclusive or hard-to-find items at very low prices. These ads often lead to fake websites where your payment information can be stolen. Always research the seller and look for reviews on independent platforms before making a purchase.
Bogus websites and URL spoofing
Cybercriminals create fake websites that mimic legitimate online retailers, often using URLs that contain subtle misspellings or alterations that can easily go unnoticed. These websites can lure unsuspecting victims by offering high-demand goods at unbelievably low prices. Shoppers should always double check the URL for the correct spelling of the website’s domain name and ensure that it starts with “HTTPS”. A lock symbol should be visible before the URL.
Untraceable payment methods
Scammers prefer payment methods that are difficult to trace and offer no fraud protection, such as cryptocurrencies, wire transfers, or gift cards. These methods make it almost impossible to recover lost funds. IT.ie recommends to always use secure and traceable payment methods such as credit and debit cards, or reputable money transfer services.
Mobile app frauds
Fraudulent mobile apps, often disguised as legitimate shopping apps, can steal personal information or infect your device with malware. These apps might appear in official app stores but often have few downloads and negative reviews. Always verify the app’s legitimacy and read reviews before downloading.
Delivery notification scams
These scams involve sending fake delivery notifications via email or text, which link to phishing websites designed to steal personal information. They often imply a sense of urgency, claiming a package is waiting. These scams are particularly successful at this time of year when people are expecting multiple deliveries. IT.ie recommends that shoppers always use the official tracking tools provided by the retailer and never click on links in unrelated email or text notifications.
Charity donation frauds
Scammers set up fake charities, particularly during the holiday season when people are more likely to make donations. They often solicit donations through persuasive emails or social media campaigns. Always research the charity using official charity regulator websites before donating.
Gift card grifts
Gift card scams involve selling discounted gift cards that are either fake or have been previously used. These offers are often found on unofficial websites or through social media ads. Always purchase gift cards directly from official retailers or authorised sellers.
With holiday travel in high demand, scammers can offer unrealistically cheap travel deals through fake websites or phishing emails. These scams may involve fake airline tickets, hotel bookings, or holiday packages. Holiday-goers should always book travel through reputable agents or directly with airlines and hotels.
Fake product reviews
Scammers will often post positive product reviews on substandard or non-existent products. These reviews create a false sense of trust and quality, making shoppers think that the product is legitimate. Shoppers should use well-known review platforms and be sceptical of overly-positive reviews for unknown brands or products.
E-card scams involve sending electronic greeting cards that contain malware or links to phishing sites. These e-cards may appear to be from known contacts, but are instead from scammers. Open e-cards only if you are expecting them and you can verify the sender’s identity.
Job offer scams
During the holiday season, fake job offers for seasonal positions are common. These scams often ask for personal information upfront or require payment for training or background checks. Legitimate employers will never ask for payment as part of the hiring process.