How to Ensure You Don’t Fall Victim to a Holiday Scam this Festive Season

If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, I have no doubt that he’d revise his famous quote: ‘Nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes’ to include online holiday scams! For there is no question that online scammers and cybercriminals love the festive season! The bulk of us are time-poor, stressed, and sporting to-do lists as long as our arms – so cybercrims know it’s inevitable that some of us are going to take short cuts with our online safety and fall into their webs!

And McAfee research shows just that with over a third of Aussies having either fallen victim to or know someone who has been affected by a phishing scam in 2019. A phishing scam is when a scammer poses as a trustworthy entity (for example, a bank or government department) usually via email with the sole purpose of trying to extract sensitive information such as passwords, usernames and credit card details. And clearly, phishing is a very lucrative online trick as it was named as the worst scam of 2019!

Top Scams of 2019

Although phishing scams have taken out the top place for 2019, robocalling scams and shipping notification scams have also caused Aussies great pain this calendar year.

If you receive a phone call with a pre-recorded message that presents a grim scenario if you don’t take action then you’ve been robocalled! My family’s ‘favourite’ one from 2019 was the scam which delivered a pre-recorded message advising us that our phone line would be cut unless we spoke immediately to their technician. The Australian Telecommunications Ombudsman was overrun with complaints about this particular heist which backs up McAfee’s research that shows 32% of Aussies either fell victim to this scam, or knew someone who did.

Shipping notification scams have also caused Aussies grief this year with more than a 1/4 of us (26%) affected or in touch with someone who was. The meteoric rise of online shopping has meant that when many of us are notified about an impending delivery, we probably don’t stop to question its authenticity.

How Much Are Scams Costing Aussies?

In Australia, 1 in 10 scam victims (11%) have lost money as a result of being targeted by a scam. And a quarter of those affected have lost more than $500! Now, that’s a sizeable chunk of cash!

But in addition to an initial monetary sting, having your personal details ‘stolen’ via a scam may come back to haunt you later down the track. According to McAfee’s Advanced Threat Research (ATR), more than 2.2 billion stolen account credentials were made available on the criminal underground in just the first 3 months of 2019!

Cybercriminals Love the Holidays!

The holiday season is particularly stressful for consumers, and cybercriminals plan accordingly. Many of us ramp up our online shopping in the lead-up to the holiday period and, as our ‘to-do’ lists get longer, some of us will inevitably let our guard down online. And cybercriminals know this too well so consequently spend a lot of effort devising cunning schemes to take advantage of our corner-cutting.

Cybercriminals put a lot of effort into devising fake accounts and sites to target consumers around key holiday shopping periods however some Aussies aren’t aware of these ploys with 21% of the Aussies interviewed not aware scams like these existed.

How Can Consumers Stay Safe This Holiday Period?

I highly recommend that you (and your family members) take a little time this holiday period to sure up your online safety. Here are a few simple steps that consumers can take to protect themselves and avoid getting scammed this festive period:

  1. Think Before Clicking on Links

With phishing scams revealed to be the worst scam of the year, it is more important than ever to think before clicking on links. Instead of clicking on a link in an email, it is always best to check directly with the source to verify an offer or shipment.

  1. Passwords, Passwords, 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. By using a different password for each, shopping, media streaming or social media account, you can dramatically reduce this risk.

  1. Invest in Security Protection Software

Use comprehensive security protection, like McAfee Total Protection, which can help protect devices against malware, phishing attacks and other threats. It includes McAfee WebAdvisor, which can help identify malicious websites.

  1. Consider a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A solution like McAfee Safe Connect with bank-grade encryption, private browsing services, and internet security will keep your information safe from cybercriminals – even when checking emails or online shopping on public Wi-Fi or open networks.

And finally beware bogus gift card scams! One new trend that is set to hit unsavvy consumers hard this holiday season is phoney gift cards, with McAfee’s ATR team seeing fake gift cards sold on the cybercriminal underground. Yet, despite the rise in this scam, 17 per cent of the survey respondents have never heard of bogus gift cards and over a quarter (26%) reported that they are not concerned about the threat. So, please spread the word and do your homework before buying gift cards!

Here’s to a Happy, Scam-Free Holiday Season!

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