This Holiday Season, Watch Out for These Cyber-Grinch Tricks

By on Nov 18, 2019

Whether it be that their shoes are too tight, their heads aren’t screwed on just right, or they’re expressing a little bit of “Bah Humbug,” cyber-grinches and cyber-scrooges everywhere view the holiday season as a perfect opportunity to exploit users. In fact, McAfee recently conducted a survey of over 1,000 adults over the age of 18 in the U.S. from October 10-20, 2019 to shed light on the types of scams they encountered this year. Let’s take a look at how criminals are attempting to steal the fun of the holiday season with various scams.

Ribbons, Wrappings, and Robocalls

The survey revealed that 48% of Americans have been a victim of or know someone who has been a victim of robocalling in 2019, making it the most prevalent scam of the year. Respondents also reported that they had been targeted with email phishing (41%) and text phishing (35%) in 2019. Another popular trend this year among these crooks? What’s old is new again. While cybercriminal activity has become increasingly sophisticated over the years, survey results showed that these less sophisticated scams of Christmas are still a popular avenue for cybercriminals to exploit.

Combined, all these scams have left quite a financial impact. 74% of respondents admitted to losing more than $100 to these scams, while 30% lost more than $500. What’s more, over 2.2 billion stolen account credentials were made available on the cybercriminal underground throughout Q1 2019 alone, posing an even greater threat to users’ data.

Between all the threats stemming from these cyber-grinches and cyber-scrooges, scams have the potential to haunt users’ digital past, present, and future. Which begs the question – what should users do? They can start by first reading McAfee’s own Christmas Carol:

Be on the Lookout for These Cyber-Grinch Tricks

While most users believe that cyber-scams become more prevalent during the holidays, a third don’t actually take any steps to change their online behavior. In fact, by cutting some corners to pave way for holiday fun, users may be putting themselves at more risk than they realize. While using devices and apps for tasks like holiday shopping, streaming TV shows, and food delivery services, users are sharing more personal information than ever before. By targeting these popular apps, cybercriminals can collect and store key data, including home addresses, credit card information, and account passwords that they can use for future attacks.

Another trend that’s set to hit unsavvy users this holiday season is phony gift cards, with McAfee’s Advanced Threat Research team discovering phony gift cards sold on the cybercriminal underground. However, the survey found that only 43% of respondents are aware of fake gift cards as a threat. What’s more, users are also failing to check shopping websites, with over one-third (37%) of respondents admitting that they don’t check an email sender or retailer’s website for authenticity. By not being mindful of these grinchy tricks, users open themselves up to many avenues of exploitation.

Securing Your Holiday Season

We must stop these Christmas scams from coming, but how? To help ensure a cyber-grinch doesn’t put a damper on your holiday season, check out the following security tips.

  • Never reuse passwords. With just one hack, cybercriminals can get their hands on thousands of passwords, which they can then use to try to access multiple accounts. Ensure that all of your passwords are complex and unique.
  • Go directly to the source. Instead of clicking on a link in an email, it’s always best to check directly with the source to verify an offer or shipment.
  • Browse with security protection. Use a comprehensive security solution, likeMcAfee Total Protection, which can help protect devices against malware, phishing attacks, and other threats. It includes McAfee WebAdvisor, which can help identify malicious websites.
  • Use a tool to help protect your personal information. A solution like McAfee Identity Theft Protection takes a proactive approach to help protect identities with personal and financial monitoring and recovery tools to help keep identities personal and secure.

And, as always, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

About the Author

Gary Davis

Gary Davis is Chief Consumer Security Evangelist. Through a consumer lens, he partners with internal teams to drive strategic alignment of products with the needs of the security space. Gary also provides security education to businesses and consumers by distilling complex security topics into actionable advice. He is a sought-after speaker on trends in digital ...

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