Don’t get scammed: Potential dangers you should watch for while doing your holiday shopping online

Scheme uses emails to harvest information from holiday shoppers
Scheme uses emails to harvest information from holiday shoppers

HOUSTON – If you’re anxiously waiting for holiday packages to arrive, now is the time to be alert and watch out for delivery schemes.

“We’re talking about emails that are masquerading as notifications that there’s been a problem with the goods you ordered that are going to be shipped to you,” said John Bloomer, regional engineering director with Check Point Software Technologies.

Bloomer said cybercriminals are using the emails as a way to trick holiday shoppers into giving up their personal information.

“They will try to ask you to put in payment information and take money directly from you,” he said. “Maybe they will say fees were not correct when the item was shipped.”

In many cases, they’re after your name and passwords so they can take those login credentials and impersonate you or use those credentials to log into more of your accounts.

“Many people reuse their passwords all over the internet so they’ll try to get your credentials and perhaps try to use them at different banks,” Bloomer said.

Hackers are impersonating Amazon, DHL and FedEx.

“The language is often unprofessional or (has) poor grammar, missing words, spelling mistakes, things like that,” Bloomer said.

Bloomer said Check Point researchers saw a more than 400% increase in delivery schemes in November compared to the previous month. In the U.S, the leading impersonated brand was Amazon.

“The best thing that you can do to protect yourself is, if you get an email from Amazon that says you have to correct something, go to your browser, go to Amazon.com, go to your account and see if you can rectify it there,” Bloomer said.

Tips to prevent getting scammed

To help users stay protected against phishing scams, Check Point is issuing these 6 tips:

  • Never share your credentials: Credential theft is a common goal of cyberattacks. Many people reuse the same usernames and passwords across many different accounts, so stealing the credentials for a single account is likely to give an attacker access to a number of the user’s online accounts.
  • Always be suspicious of password reset emails: If you receive an unsolicited password reset email, always visit the website directly (don’t click on embedded links) and change your password to something different on that site (and any other sites with the same password).
  • Verify you are using a URL from an authentic website: One way to do this is not to click on links in emails, and instead click on the link from the Google results page after searching for it.
  • Beware of lookalike domains: Spelling errors in emails or websites, and unfamiliar email senders.
  • Always note the language in the email: Social engineering techniques are designed to take advantage of human nature. This includes the fact that people are more likely to make mistakes when they are in a hurry and are inclined to follow the orders of people in positions of authority. Phishing attacks commonly use these techniques to convince their targets to ignore their potential suspicions about an email and click on a link or open an attachment.
  • Watch for misspellings: Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain. For example, a .co instead of .com. Deals on these copycat sites may look just as attractive as on the real site, but this is how hackers fool consumers into giving up their data.

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