With Covid-19 raging across the globe, one might see little jolly to celebrate this holiday season. However, despite social-distancing measures and spikes in coronavirus cases, the world is preparing for a repackaged Christmas that could soothe post-lockdown anxiety. And so are cybercriminals.
The holiday season offers cyber-crooks new opportunities to defraud people, and we can expect a proliferation of online scams leveraging the ongoing health crisis that”s pushing consumers to be more digitally active than ever.
More clicking and online shopping could stimulate fraudsters even more
Digital transactions have surged 250% since the beginning of the pandemic, accelerating online fraud by 11% from early March. Americans have lost $177.32 million to online fraud this year, while British consumers are down Â£16 million due to online shopping fraud.
Online shopping peaked, with recent reports revealing that 87% of global consumers will still be shopping for items on their Christmas gift list. Specifically, 65% of UK consumers have shopped more online since COVID-19, and 73% plan to stick to online shopping, with over half of shoppers expected to be on mobile devices.
With soaring Covid infection rates, in-person Christmas browsing in shopping centers is also expected to be delayed, providing fraudster with a perfect storm to exploit the hype surrounding the 2020 Holiday shopping season.
Bad actors will use this opportunity to try to dupe shoppers into disclosing their financial and personal information via spoofed websites, phishing emails, social media ads and messages.
No fishing allowed this Christmas
While high Covid infections rates are driving additional lockdowns and social-distancing measures globally, cybercriminals have been preparing for an even larger payday, exploiting every nook and cranny of the digital transformation. UK consumers reported more than 2 million suspicious emails between April and August 2020, leading to the removal of tens of thousands of malicious websites and scams.
However, don’t be fooled by this apparent success. According to researchers, users play a dangerous cat and mouse game when accessing unknown links they receive in emails. Although 78% of users claim to be aware of the risks associated with unsolicited emails, more than half can’t fight their curiosity and click the links anyway.
Cybercriminals are not just luring consumers with deals that lead to fraudulent websites. In the months preceding the “season of giving,” charity organizations reported Â£3.6 million in losses due to fraud or cybercrime. So, if you plan to pull out your wallet to donate to those in need, do some research. Scammers and phony charities are also ready to collect from unsuspecting citizens, so look closely at the website and call the organization for additional information. Abort any financial transfers if you are asked to provide any personal identifiable information such as a Social Security number.
Stay-at-home-holiday or Christmas-cottage rental?
Nobody is sure what Christmas will look like this year, but alternative holiday breaks are already popping up for people in need of a change in scenery. Fraudsters follow the latest trends and, being excellent social engineers, speculate on consumer behavior to fuel their financial gain.
There are plenty of genuine holiday booking websites, so avoid being lured-in by phony holiday gift vouchers you receive via email or ads on social media. In many scams, the crooks will urge you to contact them directly and not use the website’s booking services. More often than not, they offer below-market rates for rentals and ask you to send money via wire transfer directly to their account. Once the transaction is complete, the scammers disappear, with your money.
Tips for a Grinch-free Christmas
The holiday season is the worst time of the year to fall victim to cyber-theft or fraud. Thus awareness and careful planning are vital for keeping your personal and financial information safe from cybercriminals.
Holidays are the best time for sharing pleasant moments with family and friends, no matter where they are. Don”t let your first digital Christmas get stolen! See how we can help you stay safe during the holiday season and beyond.