It’s that time of year for hot cocoa, elves on some shelves and in some German families such as mine, some Gluhwein. Along with that inevitable trio comes another seasonal thing… holiday scams.
Starting in November and running right past New Year’s Day, these scams are as predicable as the winter solstice. This year the release of two next-generation game consoles are fueling the fire. Every year there is a hot new item that folks just HAVE to have. When I was a kid, there was a Six Million Dollar Man action figure I just had to have (My wonderful dad drove over 125 miles each way, from Tucson to Phoenix and back to get me one), for my little sis, it was a Cabbage Patch Kid and even as adults, it was the Wii and Balance Board. This year it’s the PS5 and the Xbox Series X taking the world by storm.
These “must have” items drive scams to whole new levels. From shipping boxes with bricks to ripping people off with Cashapp and other online payment services, the hits keep coming. On top of that, scammers have a great source for phishing emails enticing people to click on links promising to have items in stock (in fake online storefronts) and other scams that convince people that a service they have can find them in stock. Finally, the fake shipping scams trick people in to thinking their purchases are not being delivered for some reason, using the email to steal credentials or click on links to malware-laden websites. There are literally a million ways to scam during this season.
After the big day, expect to see scams related to refunds or newly stocked items that are going after the holiday money or gift cards that many people receive instead of physical presents. Then we head right into tax scam season. Oh joy.
So what can we do about this? First, share this information with others. Make sure your family and friends know to be on guard during this time, give them resources to help spot these scams, such as this and this, and most importantly, be there to offer advice when they have questions.
If we all work together through the holidays, we can keep them bright and cheerful. Then we can prep for the upcoming battle with the tax scammers.
Erich Kron is the Security Awareness Advocate at KnowBe4, and has over 20 years’ experience in the medical, aerospace manufacturing and defense fields. He is the former security manager for the US Army 2nd Regional Cyber Center-Western Hemisphere.