Five lethal scams to watch out for this Christmas

With Black Friday week already behind us, most shoppers will have already picked up a sack full of bargains before Christmas day itself gets underway.

Unfortunately the holiday shopping event comes slapped with a caveat that there are plenty of cybercriminals ready to take advantage of your good nature to pilfer credit card details, personal details and anything else they can get their hands on.

According to Sophos, here are five of the most lethal online scams to keep an eye out for when shopping this holiday season.

  1. Copycat sites and “typosquatting”

Sophos found thousands of websites “typosquatting” that have addresses almost exactly the same as popular sites such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and others.

Large numbers of these contain links to illegitimate sites and contests plus some can even infect your computer with dangerous malware just by visiting the said webpage.

To be safe, save the addresses of your most frequented sites to your favourites to avoid any unwanted attention.

  1. Advance fee fraud

Scammers looking to dupe the lonely and vulnerable are lurking at every turn and if you’re ever asked by the new love of your life that you met online for a sizeable amount of cash, always say no. Advance fee fraud still affects thousands of vulnerable people, including the elderly, and the best advice is to never send cash, however much the trust the person at the other end.

  1. The bait and switch

Being promised a “free” iPhone 6 [the “bait”] is something that we’ve all been let in on and the reason it looks to good to be true is…well…it is just that. Most of the deals persuade Facebook users the “like” the page to get the free phone before taking them to a survey [the “switch”]. It’s here that scammers make their money using a pay-per-click scheme and, although it might not sound like the most severe of schemes, it is still funding cyber crime.

  1. Faux charities

Charity work is understandably at the fore around the festive period so that those less fortunate can also enjoy the holiday season and it is another way that cyber thieves look to make money. Webpages for fake charities can look exactly like the real thing and it’s another case of carefully checking the URL and making sure it’s official before making any donation. Email campaigns are a popular way for this scam to be carried out and if you’re at all suspicious check the charity’s website to be sure it is a legitimate campaign.

  1. Unexpected “gift” deliveries

Phishing emails from delivery companies like DHL, Fedex and UPS are rife at this time of year and always be suspicious of any emails sent through to confirm redelivery of a parcel. If you aren’t expecting anything then don’t click on the link in the email. Nine times out of 10 it will be a tool designed to steal your personal details.

Those same emails could also be harbouring gifts of their own such as ransomware that can lock all the files on your computer and asking for as much as $500 [£316] to set them free once again.