Christmas, one of the most celebrated holidays of the year. A time when friends and families come together to exchange gifts and have a really good time. It is also a time that is synonymous with more spending, especially with people typically holding more money at this time of year.
Some companies during this time pay what is called a ‘13th month’ which is an additional amount of compensation, usually calculated from a single month’s salary. Most employees typically use this salary in preparation for the festive season.
With greater spending, comes the greater probability of fraud occurring. During this era of COVID-19, where more people and businesses have been forced to embrace the digital space, cybercriminals and scammers lurk within the dark space to trap unsuspecting victims particularly those who aren’t tech-savvy.
Cybercriminals and/or scammers understand that people get caught up in the frenzy of the festive season. The excitement of the season and wanting to have a good time with friends and family wrap people in a blanket of oversight and unconsciousness. This is the time to be extra vigilant and conscious, not to lose money to scammers. Here are the 5 frauds of Christmas to avoid in the era of Covid-19 and beyond.
Frauds of Christmas – Fake retail/online shopping websites
During this season of increased online shopping, quite a number of fake and fraudulent sites may spring up and it is imperative to avoid such websites. Scammers and fraudsters are good at creating convincing websites but the following steps can help you determine a fake website from an authentic one.
• Check the domain name: Several fraudulent websites will use a domain name that references an established brand or product name but are not the official website. For instance www.iphoneoffers.org or www.buyatamazon.net
• Look out for the padlock: A locked padlock next to a website’s URL means the website is encrypted/secured, so, you can browse and make payments without any form of interception. If you do not notice the padlock, then you should consider it a red flag. Some fraudsters are, however, very cunning. They can forge or buy these padlocks hence, watch out for other red flags.
• Check out details of the website: Watch out for grammatical and spelling errors. Spelling and grammatical errors are usually indicators of a poorly designed website by someone who isn’t genuine but is in a hurry to make quick money. Also, look out for contact information. Genuine websites will have a ‘Contact Us’ page with a detailed phone number, email address, and the location of their place of business. If any of the above information is unavailable, consider it a red flag.
• Analyze the offer: If the products on offer are of very low prices with a ridiculous discount that seems too good to be true, then it probably is and must be flagged. Fraudulent websites use very low prices to trap shoppers to quickly sell fake, or non-existent items.
• Get a trusted anti-virus: Using a complete and trusted anti-virus software package enables your computer to flag any untrustworthy or fraudulent websites.
Frauds of Christmas – Gift card scams
Gift cards are increasingly becoming a choice of gift for family and friends. Unfortunately, scammers recognize that and as such, have devised a means to benefit from it. Scammers will often send a user a receipt for a gift card that the user did not purchase via email. When the user decides to cancel the purchase of the gift card, they will be asked to give their details such as credit card information. The information given out will then be used to rob the user blindly. It is therefore important to watch out for email receipts that do not come from an officially recognized source.
Frauds of Christmas – Fake Charities/donations
As many businesses have gone online during this pandemic, so have charitable organizations. Many legit charitable organizations are taking to social media and email marketing to spread their cause and solicit funds. Unfortunately, fraudsters are also doing the same. Fraudsters have also set up fake charitable websites to send donation links via email. Before making any online donation to a charitable organization, visit the organization’s website and social media handles to look out for any red flags.
Frauds of Christmas – Social media messages/ online advertisement,
Be careful not to post or place so much personal information on your social media handles that can jeopardize your financial standing. Just like email, social media provides a platform for the easy circulation of malicious attachments and messages. If you click on a social media advertisement, perform your due diligence before purchasing anything from the website you land on as some online ads have embedded malware. Also, Be careful not to open any attachments or links that do not look familiar, and be sure to check the URL of the page you are redirected to in order to ensure it is an authentic website.
Do not connect to an unknown wi-fi source, and avoid online shopping using public wi-fi even if they seem secure. This is because your credit/debit card information, as well as other personal information, can easily be stolen by cybercriminals.
It is worthy to note that, in Ghana, a total number of 2,295 fraud cases were reported in the banking industry alone last year. In the United States of America, Americans have lost $145 million to fraud related to Covid-19. Do not wait to become a statistic. Take adequate measures to enjoy a fulfilling festive season and the years to come.