By Dr. Guy Bunker @guybunker
‘Tis the season to be jolly. Unfortunately it’s also the season when the cyber-criminal moves into overdrive, especially around phishing.
Every year there are warnings of scams around the festive period, and every year people fall victim. So, while there is no single way to guarantee you won’t be scammed, there are a number of things you can watch out for which will provide extra protection during the holiday season (as well as all year round)!
1) Parcel delivery cards
There is a new scam (well, it happens every year in one form or another) where a card is left and you are asked to phone a number to get the parcel re-delivered. This is the same for all parcel delivery firms. However – if the number starts with an “09”, then it is probably a scam. The “09” numbers are premium numbers and while actions have been taken to limit the amount of loss, it can still be very, very expensive.
2) Dodgy party pics
So, you might go to a few parties over the holiday season, but don’t get caught out with emails and links saying that there is a picture of you doing something “funny” – and then requesting to install a viewer on your system... You will end up infected with malware, which is not so jolly...
3) Phone calls about stolen credit cards
Remember – no-one will legitimately ring you up and ask for your card details, so if someone does – then it’s a scam. This is how it works: “Hello! We believe your credit card details have been compromised. Could you just confirm the card number to me and I can check?”
If someone does ring up and you are worried, just hang up – and then wait for 30 minutes before you call your bank or credit card provider. (Some of the scammers now leave the line open, so they can listen to the conversation you then have. But the line will automatically drop after a period of time... so just wait a while.)
4) Unexpected invoices
We all like to have a tidy desk in time for the holidays. Sometimes an invoice appears which needs immediate payment – and although there is no record of it, it looks “about right” so you pay it. Unfortunately it isn’t. There is another variation on this scam where there is a notification of changed supplier bank details. The supplier may be valid, but the details are from the scammer.
5) “Too good to be true” offers
For many of us, buying on the internet is a real bonus. You can do all your shopping from the comfort of your armchair. However, surfing the internet comes with the potential to pick up viruses and malware (so make sure your anti-virus solution is up-to-date with the most recent definitions etc.) – so keep an eye on the sites which you are buying from. Are they secure (look for the little padlock and an HTTPS address), are they reputable (have you used them before), is there anything that ‘feels’ odd about them (spelling, layout, something that makes you wonder) and then: Is the deal too good to be true? Because if it is, then it’s probably a scam. You might pay a little more elsewhere, but it will save you money in the long run.
We often don’t think about the hackers and the scammers, especially when we have work to do. It is no different over the holiday period, but there is a need to be extra vigilant. Not just at work, but at home as well. Read the papers; there are often scams in there, talk to your colleagues, friends and neighbours about what you have read or heard about. Awareness is one of the most effective ways to keep safe on line.