It’s beginning to look a lot like a ‘scammy’ Christmas: Festive season spam is hitting inboxes, Bitdefender Labs warns


December 19, 2022

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It’s beginning to look a lot like a ‘scammy’ Christmas: Festive season spam is hitting inboxes, Bitdefender Labs warns

The Christmas season is full of carols, joy, gifts and spam. Yes, you heard us: spam.

As we’re counting the days till Christmas, Bitdefender Antispam Lab has been keeping an eye out for unsolicited emails and email-based threats that could ruin your joyous celebration.

While the holiday season brings families and friends together for some much-needed downtime, for digital pickpockets, Christmas only means more opportunity to catch people off guard and steal their money and data.

Here’s an overview of what we found:

  • The volume of Christmas-themed spam rate has increased consistently since Nov 27, with spikes in unsolicited correspondence observed between Dec 6 and Dec 9 (see Figure 1)
  • 2 in 5 unsolicited Christmas-themed emails consumers received between Nov 27 and Dec 12 were marked as a scam by Bitdefender Antispam Lab
  • 31% of all Christmas spam emails (by volume) hit inboxes in the US and 24% reached users in Ireland, according to Bitdefender antispam telemetry (see Figure 2)
  • Sweden, France and Denmark also received 7%, each, of all Christmas spam (by volume), followed by the UK with 6%, Germany with 4%, Italy and Australia with 1% each (see Figure 2)
  • 43% of all Christmas-themed spam emails (by volume) were sent from IP addresses in the US and 18% from Bulgaria (see Figure 3)

Scam emails are making the rounds this Christmas season

Tens of thousands of spam holiday-themed emails have been sneaking into users' inboxes in the last 15 days, and Bitdefender Antispam researchers advise consumers to remain vigilant.

This year’s Christmas spam trends are packed with the usual subjects, including holiday giveaways, bogus surveys and discount shopping for designer goods, along with some less-expected surprises for lonely internet users, including Christmas online dating opportunities and access to premium adult content.

Dollar General, Netflix and Lowe’s are not giving out freebies this Christmas

In the weeks preceding Black Friday, cybercrooks adapted their scams just in time for Christmas, targeting internet users with plenty of fake giveaways. Dollar General is supposedly handing out $100 gift cards for completing a bogus survey and a fake Netflix wants to reward you with a limited supply of 90-dollar ones while you Netflix and shop at home.

Fraudsters also impersonated Lowe’s to target consumers in the US. By taking a 30-second survey, they said, you can win a fitness watch or a power drill for which you only need to pay for shipping. As usual, “supply is extremely limited” and you need to act fast to enter your credit card details.

Santa wants your kids’ info, and your credit card number

The letter-from-Santa scam is a traditional Christmas ruse that promises parents a special package containing both an ‘official’ nice-list certificate for their kids, alongside customized and signed letters from Santa himself. Letters and Christmas-themed packages are often quite cheap and even come with free shipping.

Unwary parents who fall victim can lose funds and become the target of identity thieves who abuse their information to commit fraud.

Being naughty on Christmas

Scammers don’t discriminate, especially during the holidays. Users were also bombarded with online dating spam just in time for Christmas. We’ve often underlined the risks of unsolicited dating and adult-themed emails that end up in the inboxes of users every day. The websites are set up for one reason only; to trick lonely individuals into opening their wallets. Many of the profiles found on these platforms are not linked to real-life women, but the operators do a good enough job of seducing ‘potential’ victims with promises to meet up.

Users who interact with such correspondence and sign up on the website won’t find themselves a date for Christmas – they’ll just lose time and money.

In Germany, users were enticed by premium access to adult video platforms.

The bogus premium package is only available for 30 new members and registration is free for the upcoming holidays.

How can you enjoy a scam-free Christmas?

Scam emails in the run-up to Christmas can be very enticing. We always recommend recipients stop and think before engaging with unsolicited correspondence that is too good to be true. Sensational offers, free money, vouchers or gift cards that come your way just in time for some last-minute holiday shopping are always a scam and can jeapordize your data, money and privacy.

Careless interactions with spam messages bring serious consequences that can ruin Christmas for you and your family. Make sure you:

  • Never fill out online surveys for gift cards and other goods that ask for your credit card information or other sensitive data
  • Don’t access links in unsolicited emails or messages on social networks offering great bargains or exclusive access to deals
  • Make your Christmas purchases on familiar websites
  • Never install software from unknown sources advertised in spam emails
  • Use a reliable security solution that can protect against malware and block phishing and fraudulent websites

Relax and enjoy some eggnog while we take care of your data this Christmas. Grab a Bitdefender all-in-one package that combines the best of both worlds: advanced malware detection technologies, privacy and identity theft protection features to give you peace of mind no matter what you do online.

Check out our plans and special offers here.

Note: This article is based on technical information courtesy of Bitdefender Labs

Happy Holidays!




Alina is a history buff passionate about cybersecurity and anything sci-fi, advocating Bitdefender technologies and solutions. She spends most of her time between her two feline friends and traveling.

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