CyberSecurity for the Holiday Season: Beware of Online Scam Attempts

November 29, 2016

As the holidays approach and the gift of giving is on your mind, be wary of those lurking on the naughty side of Santa’s list!  

This year, the National Retail Federation is forecasting holiday sales in November and December to reach as much as $117 billion online and $655.8 billion overall.  

Protect yourself and your wallet by being aware of some of these common holiday scams.  

Watch out for fake shipping notifications and take steps to reduce the risk of package theft when sending or receiving gifts. Track deliveries online, provide delivery instructions to leave packages out of sight and try to select a delivery option that requires a signature. Insure valuable packages and bring them to a shipping facility rather than leaving them outside for pickup. Show off a home security sign in your front yard, whether you have one or not.  

The best way to protect yourself as a consumer from a data breach is to shop in-store and pay cash, but for a lot of shoppers this is often unrealistic. When shopping online, pay attention to URLs and emails that contain well-known brands with extra words. If you’re unsure, Google an unfamiliar retailer, an email and/or URL to see if anyone has flagged it as a phishing scheme -- chances are someone has been scammed before you! Look for a lock symbol and “https” in the URL address. Watch out for shipping notifications with attachments and links that will download malware and attempt to steal your passwords. Use unique passwords for all of your accounts and safeguard them in a password manager like LastPass.  

The National Retail Federation predicts that “more consumers want gift cards this holiday season”. If possible, purchase gift cards that are only accessible by store employees and be sure to check that the security code has not been scratched off as swindlers are known to steal funds once gift cards are activated.  

Never give personal information for a “free offer” such as a gift or getaway and don’t send money in “senior scams” like someone pretending a relative has been in an accident, arrested or hospitalized when traveling to another country without first confirming it’s validity with a family member. Be aware of anyone looking for unusual forms of payment like prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers, third parties, even Venmo.  

If you’re looking to spread holiday cheer in the form of a charity donation, don’t be scammed by fake organizations that may call, text or send letters. Use websites like for free charity ratings and tips on ensuring your donations are well spent. If you do decide to donate, enter your payment information on their website instead of over the phone. 

--Rachel Roberts/Armistead Investigators

Follow us:    Facebook    Twitter    LinkedIn