Cyber Tips

Winter Cybersecurity: Safeguarding Against Seasonal Scams

We delve into the heightened risks of online scams during the winter season, a time when shoppers and donors are particularly vulnerable. We’ll explore various types of scams – from dodgy deals to charity frauds – and provide essential tips to help you stay safe online.

Seasonal offers, winter deals and the all-consuming Cyber Five—Black Friday to Cyber Monday—lure bargain-hunters worldwide. Last year, global online sales for Black Friday hit $40 billion. With the holidays coming and living expenses at an all-time high, this year even more people are expected to surf for savings. And where there are shoppers, there are scammers. In 2022, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) reported a staggering $530 million in victim losses from fraud and cybercrime while another study from last year found 36% of Americans fell victim to online shopping scams over the holidays. It’s not just shoppers that are at risk. The reason for the season is giving yet in 2020, the FBI reported that charity fraud accounted for $4.4 million in losses. 

The statistics might seem alarming, but they shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the excitement of hunting for bargains or the joy of giving. Our winter cybersecurity guide will help you navigate the online hustle and bustle. Read on to discover helpful tips to avoid common frauds and adopt best practices to keep yourself and your loved ones cyber safe this season. 

Dodgy Deals: Don’t Fall for Fakes  

If you see a great deal, it’s tempting to click now and ask questions later—at least that’s what scammers hope you’ll do. So, don’t do it. Take a few moments to do the following instead: 

Make sure the website is legitimate 

  • If you see a “Not Secure” warning on your screen, thank your browser and close the page at once. 
  • Take a good look at the URL. Scammers can do a pretty good job of faking this, so it’s always a good idea to type the URL into the browser rather than clicking links.  
  • Look for the padlock icon in front of the URL and click to reveal security information.  
  • Read reviews about the seller or company before you buy. 

Social Media Scams 

Since 2021, Americans lost $2.7 billion to social media scams. Even with the protections offered by some social media platforms, always vet and research sellers before buying anything. From Meta’s Instagram Shops and Facebook Marketplace to your local online classifieds site, there are precautions you need to take before sealing the deal: 

  • To verify a “store” or seller, review the account’s online activity. For example, a legitimate Instagram Shop will post regularly, have a sizeable following and possibly even appear in a hashtag search. 
  • Look for a link to a professional website to verify deals or offers.  
  • If a social media account has messaged you directly with an aggressive sales pitch or too-good-to-be-true deal, it’s almost certainly a scam. Don’t click any links and block the account.  
  • If you’re invited to take part in a ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange on social media, don’t play along. It’s most likely a pyramid scheme and/or the perfect ruse for thieves to collect personal information. 
  • If you’re shopping online classified sites, groups or marketplaces, don’t transfer money to hold items. Only pay for merchandise once you have it in your hands.  
  • Never agree to pay with gift cards—even if you’re buying something locally. Gift cards aren’t traceable and that’s a red flag.  

Loan Scams 

This time of year, expenses can rise above the costs of holiday entertaining and gift-giving. Winter tires and heating costs can blow out even the best-planned budgets. Or maybe you want to escape the cold for a last-minute warm-weather vacation. Enter the scammers with offers to boost your spending power with one-click low interest loans. Masquerading as third-party lenders, cyberthieves request a fee to secure the low rate and then disappear with your money. Here are some tips to protect yourself from loan scams: 

  • Beware of zero interest, no credit check loans. This obviously too-good-to-be-true ploy is used by fraudulent lenders to reel you and ask for a fee. 
  • Make sure the lender is registered with a regulatory body and follows regulatory protocol. 
  • If the lender doesn’t have a publicly available website with a customer service helpline, steer clear. 
  • Read ratings and reviews and check for any negative media coverage about the lender  
  • If you’re contacted by a trusted financial institution with a lending offer, do not click any links or give out information over the phone. Instead, contact the company yourself to verify. 

Charity/Fundraiser Scams

Tis the season for giving. With so much going on in the world, those who can want to pay it forward—especially during the holiday season. Sadly, cyber criminals are too often holding the digital donation box. In 2022, the CAFC reported a rise in charity scams using the situation in Ukraine to defraud donors. And the FTC issues regular warnings and advice for donating safely in times of crisis. While charity scammers continuously come up with new tricks, there are some common red flags: 

  • If a charity resorts to a high-pressure sales pitch and tries to create an immediate sense of urgency, it’s possible you’re dealing with a cyber thief.  
  • Cryptocurrency, gift cards and wire transfers are not legitimate payment options for a reputable charity.  
  • Offering sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a donation is illegal. 
  • If you haven’t heard of the organization, disengage and do some research. Look for media reports and use online resources to verify the charitable organization’s credibility. 
  • Be extra cautious with crowdfunding. Make sure you can verify the person behind the campaign. 
  • Stay on top of charity fraud by signing up for email alerts or visiting government websites for updates.

Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself on the wrong end of a scam this winter holiday season. And we do mean best efforts. Scammers work ridiculously hard to part you from your money and even the most cyber-savvy can be duped.  At BOXX Insurance, our purpose is to make the world a digitally safer place. Our Cyberboxx Home™ product covers fraud, identify theft and cyberbullying associated with digital scams and risks. The BOXX Hackbusters™ incidence response team is standing by 24/7 to recover and restore your personal, financial and private information.  

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