Email Scams: Ah, Winter… it might be chilly but as we all know tis the season to be jolly. But unfortunately, it is also the season to be wary! Because sadly, an increase in gift-giving, only shopping, seasonal sales and giveaways and the fact that everyone lets their guard down a little as they get into the festive spirit, creates the perfect conditions for cybercriminals.
It’s no secret that cybercrime is on the rise. In fact, according to UK Finance figures more than £27 million was lost to fraud and scams in just six months in 2020. This works out at an average of £720 per case. And aware of what’s going on at this time of year, scammers and fraudsters take advantage of unsuspecting victims.
So though fraud may be happening all year round, with the festive season upon us we thought it would be a good idea to pull together a list of some of the more popular phishing scams that will be hitting your inbox right about now.
Once you’re aware of these scams and how to spot them, it makes it much easier for you to avoid being conned and keep yourself safe this season – and long into the future, for that matter. Popular scams include:
1. Fake shipping notices or messages from couriers
With many consumers doing their Christmas shopping online, they might be waiting for multiple parcels at any one time. Cybercriminals take advantage of this by setting up counterfeit emails pretending to be courier or delivery services such as Royal Mail or DPD. They might then ask for additional information or even a small payment to help your parcel reach you.
Email Scams:: Don’t click on any suspicious looking links from in these ‘courier’ emails and certainly don’t give away any more of your information. Check the email address and if it doesn’t look legitimate it’s best to go directly to the retailer’s website and track your parcel through that instead.
2. ‘You’ve won’ – Seasonal competition scams
It’s the time of year when many genuine retailers and businesses might be running competitions, prize draws or giveaways. However, it’s also the time of year when scammers try to trick their victims into sharing their personal information in a bid to claim their prize.
There are several ways you can spot the signs of a competition scam. First and most obviously, if you didn’t enter the competition in the first place! Secondly, no legitimate body would ask you to give away important details over email, so if they’re looking for sensitive or financial information, this is most likely a scam.
You should also be careful not to click on any strange links or downloads included in the email. If you think you may have genuinely won the competition you should check the email address and then go straight to the company for confirmation.
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3. Letters from Santa
Perhaps one of the cruellest seasonal scams of all, fraudsters send emails out to their victims which leads them through to a fake website offering letters or even packages to be sent from Santa. Of course, there are legitimate companies out there that do offer these services, which is what makes this scam so cunning and frustrating.
Email Scams:: Once you’ve been redirected to the site, they may request your name, address and financial details in order to send the letter to you. But of course, the letter will never arrive.
The best way to avoid falling for this type of scam if you do want your little ones to receive a letter from Santa, is to run an internet search of reviews to find legitimate companies that have been verified by others.
4. Fake charity appeals
You know what they say, Christmas is a time for giving and often charities will ramp up their fundraising efforts over the festive period. What’s more, many people will be more inclined to spare some change for those that are less fortunate than they are at this time of year. And again, scammers take advantage of people being in this more generous mood.
In this case, they’ll use phishing emails to outline a fake appeal and send victims to a fake website. To do this, they’ll use every emotional language and make their appeal sound urgent. Often they’ll use a name that sounds like a legitimate charity and once you’ve parted with your cash, it’s almost impossible to recover it.
The best way to spot these scams is to check out the charity name very carefully and see if there are any variants on other well-known charities. You can also search the Government’s charity register to make sure they are a real and registered charity. A quick internet search should also help you to find out if the email is real or if others have already been targeted and reported it online.
Email Scams:: Until you’ve confirmed whether or not the charity is legitimate, don’t make any sort of payment or share any of your details.
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5. Seasonal job opportunities
During the holiday season there are often more jobs that need to be filled, for example, the hospitality and retail industries will see a surge in customers and will usually need to take on seasonal staff. Clever scammers will take advantage of this by sending out fake job adverts or job opportunities in a bid to gather personal information.
If you’re looking for a seasonal job, it’s best to use legitimate job boards or job sites to help you find a role. Be cautious of any jobs sent straight to your inbox that offer high salaries or seem too good to be true. You should also never submit your personal information through email in response to a job offer, even if the site seems genuine.
What to do if you think you’re being targeted
If you do receive an email like this over the festive season and you believe it’s a scam, there are ways you check this, report the scammer and warn other unsuspecting victims. The best places to do this include:
- Action Fraud
- Citizens Advice Bureau
These bodies will be able to report the suspicious email and begin an investigation to ensure more people aren’t targeted in the future.
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