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Unwrapping the Deception: Why Scammers Thrive During the Holidays and How to Guard Against Them

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  • Digital Team 

The holiday season, a time of joy, generosity, and celebration, is unfortunately also a prime hunting ground for scammers. For example, exactly in December last year it was an attack against the Guardian where bad actors used ransomware to disrupt Payroll and print production. What is more, malicious actors aimed at attacking university employees also in December 2022. Bad actors sent phishing emails which offered Christmas bonuses. But, instead of awards, the emails included malicious html attachment. When victims click on it, their personal data comes to the bad actors. 

As families gather and individuals engage in festive shopping sprees, scammers seize the opportunity to exploit the heightened emotions and increased financial transactions. In this article, we will delve into the psychology behind why scammers are particularly successful during the holidays and discuss effective strategies to shield ourselves from falling victim to their deceptive schemes.

  • Emotional Vulnerability

The holiday season is often accompanied by heightened emotions, ranging from joy and excitement to stress and loneliness. Scammers are adept at exploiting these emotional vulnerabilities to manipulate individuals into making impulsive decisions. Whether it’s the promise of a dream vacation, the allure of a heavily discounted product, or a seemingly urgent charitable cause, scammers leverage emotions to cloud judgment and encourage hasty actions.

To oppose them, it’s crucial to recognize and manage these emotions. Take a step back and evaluate any offer or request with a clear mind. If something feels too good to be true, it probably is. By maintaining emotional resilience, individuals can resist the tactics scammers use to elicit impulsive reactions.

  • Increased Financial Transactions

The holiday season is synonymous with increased spending. From gift shopping to travel expenses and festive decorations, individuals tend to engage in more financial transactions than usual. Scammers capitalize on this surge in activity by creating fake websites, phishing emails, and counterfeit products designed to trick unsuspecting consumers.

To counteract this, it’s essential to prioritize secure online practices. Verify the authenticity of websites before making online purchases by checking for secure payment options, reviewing customer feedback, and ensuring the website’s URL begins with “https://” to indicate a secure connection. Additionally, regularly monitor bank statements for any suspicious transactions and report them immediately.

  • Gift Card Scams

Gift cards have become a popular and convenient gift choice during the holidays. However, scammers have developed sophisticated schemes to exploit this trend. For example, a CyberGhost’s blog post shows how easy it is for bad actors to replicate and duplicate e-greeting cards. That’s why this method is so widespread. Fraudsters may impersonate friends, family members, or even official institutions, requesting gift card payments for various reasons, such as emergencies or outstanding debts.

To combat gift card scams, individuals should exercise caution when receiving unexpected requests for gift cards. Verify the identity of the person making the request through alternative means, such as a phone call or face-to-face conversation. Institutions, such as banks or government agencies, do not typically request payment in gift cards, so any such request should be treated with suspicion.

  • Charity Scams

The spirit of giving is pervasive during the holidays, and scammers exploit this generosity by creating fake charities or impersonating legitimate ones. These scams often involve emotional appeals for urgent donations to help those in need, tugging at the heartstrings of well-intentioned individuals.

To oppose charity scams, it’s crucial to research and verify the legitimacy of any organization before making a donation. Reputable charities provide detailed information about their mission, use of funds, and official contact information. Donors should exercise due diligence and consider contributing directly through the charity’s official website rather than responding to unsolicited requests.

  • Impersonation and Spoofing

Scammers frequently employ tactics such as impersonation and spoofing to create a false sense of urgency or authority. Particularly, according to Expert Insights, 90% of data breaches come exactly from impersonation and spoofing. From fake emails claiming to be from banks requesting password updates to phone calls impersonating government officials demanding immediate payment, scammers rely on the fear of consequences to manipulate individuals into complying with their demands.

To counteract these tactics, individuals should remain vigilant and verify the legitimacy of unexpected communications. Official institutions typically communicate through secure channels, and it’s advisable to independently verify contact information and reach out directly to the institution to confirm the authenticity of any requests.

While the holiday season is a time of joy and celebration, it’s essential to remain vigilant and educated to protect oneself from scammers seeking to exploit the festive atmosphere. By understanding the psychological tactics scammers employ and implementing proactive measures, individuals can create a safer holiday experience for themselves and their loved ones. By staying informed, practicing discernment, and prioritizing cybersecurity, we can collectively oppose the efforts of scammers and ensure a season of joy, free from the threat of deception.

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