As during any time of year with increased consumer spending, families must beware cyber scams. Online thieves are always looking for opportunities to bypass typical Internet security measures, using new strategies and proven practices, tempting you to click fake links, share credit card numbers, and submit personal information.
Since the holiday season is as good a time as any to lure you in, here are some common ways net criminals try to take advantage of you during this busy time of year.
Social Media Scams
Regular Facebook users are familiar with the usual advertising deals, amazing offers and fantastic bargains that seem too good to pass up on the social media site. And whether you’re equipping elementary, high school or college students with school supplies, expensive electronics always seem to be part of the equation.
These seemingly unbeatable deals often draw you in to investigate further. Be aware that these ads are particularly dangerous. It may take just one click on the advertisement and you could get more than you bargained for, including free viruses.
So, when you see iPads for $99 or graphing calculators for $5.99, don’t be fooled. While reviewing these ads, your consumer skepticism should kick in, because if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.
Bogus Emails or Phishing
For many identity thieves, fake email ads are still their tool of choice. Cyber scammers are very sophisticated and know they have to send out very real and legitimate looking email ads promoting deep discounts in order to incite click throughs from consumers like you.
With these virtual traps, identity thieves are hoping you don’t notice typos, poor grammar, outdated logos and no “fine print” disclosures. Scammers are also hoping you don’t notice their inaccurate URLs and click through to the fake websites.
These fake websites prompt you to share your personal information in exchange for exclusive offers on great back-to-school supplies. If you don’t recognize the domain name or the ad just doesn’t seem right, Google some of the keywords; hover over keywords to reveal the URL link; or contact the retailer. If anything looks unfamiliar or seems strange, confirm before you click -- it could save your identity from falling into the wrong hands.
Freebies and GiveawaysWho doesn’t love a freebie or giveaway? Getting something for nothing is great and Internet criminals know that too. Scammers use emails, social media and text messages to entice users with generous gift cards.
If you don’t remember entering to win a $1,000 gift card for Best Buy or Walmart, chances are you didn’t and you’re dealing with a scam. Delete it right away. The gift card giveaways are so widespread that Best Buy and Walmart have warnings posted on their corporate websites to help users identify fraudulent offers.
With a little care and good sense, this back-to-school season will be scam free. And you'll find some good deals along the way.
Noah Gamer is a driven business leader with experience in Internet marketing, Web software development and eCommerce. Currently, he develops security solutions for consumers at Trend Micro. For more on cyber safety, go to Trend Micro