Don’t get scammed this holiday season

Luke Parker
Don’t get scammed this holiday season

With the festive season here, it’s only natural our minds start wondering off to the 101 things we’ve got to do – Christmas tree, presents, food lists, work party, shopping,  and contacting friends and family  to name just a few.

Unfortunately as you go about preparing for the special holiday period, online scammers are also hard at work and prepared to run a wide range of scams in order to steal your personal information.

So to help you keep vigilant, we’ve put together a list of this year’s Top-9 scams to keep a watchful eye out for and ways you can protect yourself against being taken advantage of.

SEE ALSO: From taking the orders to giving them


1. Ransomware

Over the last few years ransomware has become one of the biggest money spinners for cyber criminals and is just as big a threat at Christmas time.

Ransomware is malware that installs on the victim’s machine, usually after the victim clicks on a link in an email. This then triggers the malware to download and encrypt the hard drive meaning the victim cannot access any of their own data (including all those precious photos).

The cyber criminals provide instructions on how the victim can make payment so the drive is decrypted. However, even if the victim pays there is no guarantee that the drive will be decrypted or that at least some of the data will not be lost if it is. 

How to protect yourself

Delete any emails and don’t click on any attachments (e.g. PDFs, Word docs, Photos etc.) or links unless you are 100% sure of what they are. You can check the URL link by hovering over it before clicking on it. 

Have up to date anti-virus installed on all your machines. Also back up your data regularly – photos, documents etc.


2. Unbelievable deals or offers

Scammers can offer gift cards and deals at heavily discounted prices, and will when you buy them online they gather your account, credit card details or personal information to either raid your account, max out your credit card or sell on the black-market.

These scams target victims through phishing emails, websites, and social media ads that scammers have built.

How to protect yourself

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. When shopping online make sure you stick to reputable e-commerce sites that have been verified as safe by a third-party Trustmark.

Also look for “https” at the beginning of a site’s URL, which indicates that the site is using encryption to protect your information.


3. Fake Refunds

A common online attack is where the victim is offered a refund, usually via email, and they only need to supply their bank accounts to receive it.

How to protect yourself

If you’re offered a refund for a product or service you’ve never purchased, then it obviously is a scam. If you are unsure if it’s legitimate, Google the company/organisation and call them to confirm. 


4. Charity Scams

Scammers know people often donate to charity at this time of year, so they use this to their advantage. They may use phishing emails or fake links to try get your details through “online donations”.

How to protect yourself

If unsure clarify with the charity directly. Don’t click on any attachments or links provided in the suspect email. 


5. Extra Holiday Money

In the run up to Christmas many people try to make a bit of extra cash. Scammers offer “work from home” scams that collect the victim’s personal information which is then sold onto the black market and used to commit identity theft. 

How to protect yourself

Avoid these offers and never supply them with any information. 


6. Fake Websites

Cyber criminals build fake websites that can look very convincing and similar to the real sites. They also do extra work to push the websites up the search engine results.

These websites can be used to install malware and steal personal information. 

How to protect yourself

Double check the URL for website you click on the search results page is the real one. Also keep your web browser up to date and run up to date anti-virus software on your machine regularly.


7. Postal delivery failures

This is the busiest time of year for postal services, and with so much merchandise being ordered online and shipped through the post, scammers use this to their advantage.

Targeted consumers receive bogus emails with subject lines such as, “NZ Post Delivery Failure Notification.” These emails then instruct consumers to click on a link to find out when they can expect delivery.

Clicking on the link downloads malware, which can steal personal information such as usernames, passwords and financial account information stored on the victim's computer.

How to protect yourself

If you have not ordered the item that the company “failed to deliver” then it’s most likely a scam, moreover most delivery companies will post a failed delivery card through your post box. You can check the URL link by hovering over it before clicking on any URL's, if in any doubt don’t click and delete the email. If you’re afraid of missing a surprise present just google a contact number for the delivery company and call to confirm with them.


8. Fake Wi-Fi

Scammers will go to a public place and set up a hotspot and select a name to make victims think that it’s a public Wi-Fi zone. They will then collect all the information that someone enters while using this connection. 

How to protect yourself

Avoid using public Wi-Fi when possible. Never make a credit/debit card payment over public Wi-Fi.


9. Christmas E-Cards

Christmas E-cards can contain malware that downloads to users’ machine when clicked on.

How to protect yourself

Have up to date anti-virus on your machine. Avoid clicking on these cards and use your common sense; if your miserable boss/uncle/long lost childhood friend suddenly sends you a Christmas E-card out of the blue, probably best to delete it.

SEE ALSO: From taking the orders to giving them

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