Don’t get taken this holiday season!
Email scams happen year-round, but during the holidays, fraudsters really up the ante in their efforts to take advantage of you and steal your personal information. Between online shopping and extra distractions, even the savviest of the savvy may get caught up in these deceptions.
If you’re like most people, you might expect email delivery notifications this holiday season… but some of these notices may be scams! Fake shipping notifications commonly use variations of the same message, such as:
- Your package has been delayed.
- There’s a delivery problem.
- You need to make a payment to receive your package. (No, you don’t… you already did that when you placed the order.)
The email usually looks like it’s from a major retailer or a shipper, such as UPS or Fedex, complete with legit-looking logos and business addresses.
Purchase verifications and invoices
With all the extra spending going on, it can be easy to lose track of where you spend your money. Scammers take advantage of that by sending emails that appear to come from credit card companies or major retailers asking that you confirm a “suspicious purchase.” They may also send you an invoice for something you didn’t order.
You may see an increase in the number of email alerts announcing deals, special gifts, and sales… some that sound too good to be true. Emails hyping these exciting deals can look authentic, but the links may lead to lookalike websites that are designed to trick you into entering personal and/or financial information. The fake sites may also allow scammers to download malware onto your computer or other device.
That happy little holiday card you get in your inbox might be from a scammer instead of a friend or family member. Always look for the sender’s name and be skeptical if you’re required to enter personal information to open the card.
You’re feeling generous, right? (It’s that time of year!) Well, that email you received asking for a donation might be a scam! Bad guys take advantage of the seasonal generosity by sending emails asking for donations to bogus charities. Before you give, check to make sure the charity is legit.
Sometimes the name of the charity mentioned in the email is real and well-known, but the email links take you to a fake donation site instead of the charity’s real website. (It may look so real you’d never know the difference!) If you decide to donate to the cause, don’t click on the email links. Instead, use your browser to search for the charity and go directly to their website.
What to do… what to do?
So, what should you do if you get one of these emails? First off, slooooow down! Panic is a common reaction when you get an email (supposedly) from Amazon that says “we just want to make sure this $3,999 purchase was made by you.” (Yipes!) But take a deep breath… and don’t click on anything. Then starting looking for the signs of a scam. Here are a few things to look for:
- Misspelled words: Scammers misspell words on purpose for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s to make the emails seem more authentic, as if they’re coming from a real person; other times, they might include misspellings in an attempt to get past spam filters. Anyhow, if you see misspelled words, that’s a pretty solid sign of a scam.
- A rushed deadline: Is the email asking you to take action immediately (or something bad will happen)? A lot of scam emails create a false sense of urgency so you’ll click on the links without thinking it through!
- Links to sketchy URLs: Hover over the links — DON’T CLICK! — and look carefully at the URLs. Sometimes the bad guys will try to trick you with URLs that look similar at a glance: www.arnazon.com instead of www.amazon.com. (Did you notice the first URL used an “r” and an “n” next to each other to look like the “m” in amazon?) Also, if the email seems to be from your favorite retailer, but when you hover over the links, you see URLs for an entirely different website… it’s definitely a scam.
After reviewing the email with these red flags in mind, if you still think the email maaaay be legit, use your browser to take you directly to the website instead of clicking through the email links.
There are a lot of other red flags that indicate an email may be a scam. As a member of Linn Area Credit Union, you have exclusive access to an interactive, in-depth home course designed by KnowBe4, a leader in the security awareness training biz. (The same company that trains Linn Area employees!) We highly encourage you to take this excellent course. In fact, you may take it over and over again, whenever you feel the need to brush up on your scam-recognizing skills.
For more tips on how you can prevent fraud, check out the rest of our Security & Fraud Protection articles.