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How to Not Fall Prey to Holiday Phishing Scams this Season?

December 28, 2015

Phishing scams are a persistent problem for businesses and consumers. The Verizon 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report revealed that at least one in 10 people fall for phishing attempts. During the holiday season, inboxes everywhere are flooded with e-cards and messages from relatives, friends and well-wishers. Unfortunately, some of these emails may include nefarious software.

“Around the holidays, a very common ploy for cyber criminals is to send fake e-greeting cards with malicious files attached,” said Craig Young, security researcher at Tripwire. “It’s easy for busy, distracted consumers to become victims of these schemes, but armed with a few basic security practices, they can drastically reduce their chances of being victimized.”

Young recommends consumers take the following precautions during the holiday season:

  • Ignore and delete messages with poor grammar or formatting, particularly ones that include file attachments or links, as these are indicative of phishing or spam emails. Also be suspicious of emails that are missing names or use nondescript greetings, such as “Dear Mom and Dad.”
  • Never open emails from unknown addresses with undisclosed recipients, especially if the message contains attachments.
  • If you receive an e-greeting card, consider calling the sender first to confirm if they sent one, and if they didn’t, don’t open it.
  • Always run anti-virus software and keep the signatures up-to-date. If you click on something inappropriate, anti-virus software may prevent a malware infection.
  • Apple devices aren’t immune to malware or phishing. As the number of Apple users has continued to grow, there has been a corresponding increase in malicious software targeting OS X platforms.

“Many people look forward to connecting with friend and family during the holidays and cyber criminals take advantage of that,” said Young. “Consumers who take basic precautions are far less likely to be victimized during the busy holiday season.”

The biggest time of the online shopping extravaganza is here. Email campaigns offering deals and discounts will be flooding your inboxes, however a word of caution is cybercriminals are out there “phishing” for your personal credit card details, personal addresses and other details.

See: 8 Easy Hacks to Keep Your Email Inbox Clutter Free

Before providing correct credentials do verify that the email is not a phishing scam. Here are the top 10 emails you should stay on lookout to avoid phishing scams:

  • Do not trust the display name in a phishing or spoofing email. Check the email address, like for example if it appears like: yourbank@secure.com, do not open such emails. Opening of such emails might install malware into your system and private information can thus be leaked.
  • Look in case to verify suspects, but do not click on any links embedded in the body of the email.
  • Check for spelling mistakes in the email link address. Legitimate email messages generally do not contain spelling or grammatical errors. So read your emails carefully and report to the cyber criminal authority in case of any suspects.
  • Never give away personal information such as credit card number, personal correspondence address, ATM pin etc on email or even on phone security measures. Legitimate banks and companies will not ask for personal details on email.
  • Review the signature embedded in the email. Lack of details about the undersigned or on how you can contact a company in case of issues, definitely says it’s a phishing email.
  • Do not click on attachment on emails you suspect, such attachments could install potential virus into system to encrypt your personal files and folders. Be cautious at all times when checking emails to stay away of fraudulent emails especially filling your inboxes during the holiday season with many schemes launched by brands.
  • Do not believe in everything you see until you cross verify personally. Phishers are extremely good at sending across an email with a convincing brand logo, message, undersigned and seemingly valid email address. In any case, do not exchange any personal information via email even if it looks remotely suspicious. Just ignore and block the sender as “Spam”. Do not open such emails and curb your temptation to lure you into schemes, discounts and gifts this holiday season. Shop safe, happy holidays!!

Also read: How to Balance Workload during the Holiday Season?

Image credit: carlsbadistan.com

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