This time of year is supposed to be synonymous with goodwill to all men, but it’s important to remember that crooks don’t stop for Christmas.
In fact, as we all begin to relax the racketeers are ramping up their operations, ready to take advantage of opportunities offered by the most wonderful time of the year.
And while we’d all like to believe that we are too clever to be conned, the truth of the matter is that scammers are constantly evolving their approaches to take advantage of seasonal openings and opportunities
With this in mind we have taken a look at some popular types of sting and how they might be tailored to the time of year to prey on people preoccupied by the demands of the holiday season.
Whether it’s snapping up a bargain in the sales or someone still looking for the perfect present, this is a busy time for online sales.
But the scammers know this too and are poised to profit.
One of the most common purchase scams involves offering sought-after items for sale and requesting money by transfer, before disappearing without handing over the goods.
Online sellers should be wary too. Recent rackets have included transfer scams where dummy sites show sellers that funds have been transferred causing them to give up their goods before discovering that no money actually made it to their account.
The cold weather brings coughs and colds, and with the memories of the pandemic still fresh in our minds, scammers continue to prey on our health fears.
Look out for fake texts purporting to come from the test and trace service that was stood down in May of this year, which when clicked install malware or harvest your identity information.
Subscription service alerts
No one wants to miss out on the latest releases over the holiday. So when an alert purporting to come from Netflix or Prime pops up telling you your payment details need to be updated, you might scramble to keep service uninterrupted.
Don’t click on links sent by text or email, type a trusted url in the address bar and log in to check your payment status using your existing account info.
Fake friends and family
There are a number of variations on this theme – but all of them involve contact that appears to come from a friend or family member claiming to be stranded and in need of funds.
Initially an email approach from hacked accounts, this scam has now evolved with scammers sending messages that open with “Hi Mum” or “Hi Dad” in the hopes of preying on unsuspecting parents.
People are advised to be wary of any contact seeming to come from a friend or family member requesting monetary aid – never transfer funds without speaking to the loved one and confirming they made the request.
With online ordering and the expectation of gifts from friends and family, it’s important that consumers stay vigilant for delivery scams.
If you receive a text message advising you have missed a parcel and asking you to click a link to arrange redelivery, stop and think.
Clicking the link on a delivery scam message is likely to download an app that will harvest your sensitive information, as the National Centre for Cyber Security explains on their website: “If installed, it can steal your banking details, passwords, and other sensitive information.”
The festive period can be tough for those on their own, and singles might want to reach out online in the hopes of finding someone with whom they can share the season.
But lonely hearts looking for love should be on their guard.
Romance fraud sees tricksters targeting singles, luring them into emotional intimacy and convincing them a relationship is blossoming before making a request that serves their criminal purposes.
One great tip that Action Fraud recommends to avoid falling for a romance fraudster is to use a reverse image search on the profile picture to find if it has been stolen and used to entice those looking for love online.
Cost of living cons
With the inevitable post-celebration belt-tightening everyone will be looking for ways to cut their outgoings.
But texts that promise to get money off bills could be another attempt to install malware on your device or harvest your details, so as with all previously mentioned potential scams, be on alert.
Police Scotland’s warning to public
A spokesperson for Police Scotland said: “Scammers are clever and manipulative and their tactics are more and more sophisticated. They will use this busy time of year to prey on people.
“If you’re not sure, don’t click on the link; contact the companies direct.
“Our advice is, particularly when looking for a bargain online, if it looks too good to be true, then generally it is.
“We want people to remember their Christmas for the right reasons and not to be caught out.
“Information on keeping yourself safe can be found on the Police Scotland website.”
A spokesman for the National Cyber Security Centre added: “Cyber criminals are opportunistic and often exploit current events to trick people into sharing their financial or personal details.
“It’s vital that the public remain vigilant to this threat, and we urge people to report suspicious messages by forwarding suspect texts to ‘7726’ and emails to email@example.com.”
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[How to spot seasonal scams]