Beware Cyber Security Grinches & Holiday Scams


‘Tis the season to receive holiday scams in your email, on your Facebook page and via text. But you won’t be singing tra la la la la if you click on links that install malware on your computer! More and more of us seem to be conducting our holiday shopping online, and the cyber security Grinches are taking advantage of this new-found holiday convenience. There are several varieties of holiday scams that seem to come around each year.

The first red flag might be the Subject line of the email: “Order Confirmation”, “Acknowledgement of Order”, “Order Status”, “Thanks for Your Order”, “Problem With Your Order”, “Delivery Failure”, “Canceling Your Scheduled Delivery”, etc. It may tell you that an order is ready for you and you just need to click on the link to get the information about how to redeem it. Or, it may play on your fear of not getting a package out before Christmas and say you haven’t provided a correct address – this is a fear-based holiday scam.

Holiday scams usually appear to come from well-known companies, are VERY realistic looking and even use actual logos.

Once you click on the link, however, malware is installed on your computer that may gather email credentials, credit card data, logins and passwords in addition to making your computer a magnet for junk mail. It can also deploy a scanning technology that uses your computer to scan websites for vulnerabilities and then hack them!

Cyber Grinch or Real Deal? How to Tell the Difference…

If you do receive an email, scammy or otherwise, even if you did indeed order from that store, follow these steps:

  2. Instead, open your web browser and type in the merchant site and log in to your account (which you had to establish to order from them).
  3. If it the email you received was about a legitimate order, they will provide you with an order or reference number which you can type into their website to verify activity.

In other words, verify that the email is legitimate by going directly to the site; don’t depend on the email. If for some reason you did click on a link that brought you to a website, make sure that you don’t click any more times on that site, and don’t fill out any information that they might be requesting.

(For more solutions to common scams related to the holidays, or really, all year long, check out our entire 12 Days to a Safe Christmas blog series.)

When not protecting readers around the holidays, John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, cyber security, internet privacy & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.