US-CERT and FBI warns of Holiday Scams

US-CERT and FBI advised users to remain vigilant when browsing and making online sales this holiday. More importantly, the Feds advised internet users to watch out for phishing scams solicit icing for personal information through spoofed websites and emails.

The festive season is finally here, Black Friday is knocking and cyber Monday will be dangling life time offers and unimaginable online shopping discounts. It’s that time year when everyone is chasing or being chased by hot shopping deals and holiday get-ways. Shopping ads keep popping up right, left and center promising irresistible offers, which are hard not to click on. Well, amid the  fanfare and the mother Teresa attitude in the air, internet criminals too are looking to make a kill before the frenzy mood fizzle out in the next one or two months..

On Monday, United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-Cert) advised internet users “to remain vigilant when browsing online this holiday season,” warning that E-cars, shipping advertisements and shipping notifications from unknown senders may contain malicious links and attachment that will give them way to hackers.

FBI Birmingham office, also advised users against “cyber criminals and their aggressive and creative ways to steal money and personal information” especially during the festive season. Scammers and other online fraudsters will go any length to lay their hands on your banking information, including posting“classified ads or auctions for products they do not have,” FBI warned.

All said and done, there are enoughreasons to enjoy your holiday if you update your security gladiator’s checklist accordingly. The first type offraudsters to keep off are the phishing masters. These are the bad guys who employ social engineering techniques to break down the target. Phishing masters masquerade as genuine service providers’ solicit icing for personal information purportedly to improve service delivery or save you from an online scam.

Be suspicious of emails from your bank, software provider or credit card Company requesting you to update your login credentials or reset your password because suddenly they’ve grown too old. Most often than not, clicking on the links lead to spoofed websites directly connected to the attackers servers .All usernames or passwords provided are immediately whisked away.

“Be leery of e-mails or text messages you receive indicating a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. In this scam, you are directed to follow a link or call the number provided in the message to update your account or correct the problem.” warns the FBI in a blog.

Gifts lovers too should be aware of gift scams looming in the horizons. Internet fraudsters are waiting, promising to sell and deliver non-existence gifts vouchers. Always buy gift cards directly from genuine merchant or authorized retail merchants. In case of any fraudulent transaction, the Merchant will automatically deactivate the gift card number and will not make the purchase.

Consumers should also look out for a “one-day promotion” offers which in most instance are too good to be true. “Fraudsters often use the hot items of the season to lure bargain hunters into providing credit card information,” warned the FBI. Always think twice before going for an 85% discount as that could be the beginning of your financial turmoil.

More importantly, avoid trusting anyone with your banking information or any other incriminating personal information. “We think itsChristmas season and we can trust anyone and that is not really the case,” says Professor Audrey Guskey, adding that users should verify the authenticity of every shopping website, emails or gifts during this festive season.

As a rule thumbs, never shop or conduct personal business over public Wi-Fi. More often than not, online fraudsters are sitting in coffee shops and airports Wi-Fi waiting to intercept any sensitive information provided in online transactions. Notably, turn off your Bluetooth when not in use and avoid connecting your devices to untrusted computers or charging stations you don’t control.

Other important tips that will help you sail through the festive seasons include;

  • Not responding to unsolicited emails or click links contained within such emails.
  • Beingwary of email attachments form unknown senders. Such files may contain spywares which may compromise your security. Run a virus scan an attachments before downloading or view then in protected view.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
  • Verifying the legitimacy of requests for personal information by your financial provider or other service providers through independent sources such as phone books, trusted internet directory or legitimate billing statement. It is advisable you call you provider to authenticate the request.
  • Avoid login in to important websites through untrusted third party Apps or social media.
Lawrence Mwangi Lawrence is a technology and business reporter. He has freelanced for a number of tech sites and magazines. He is a web-enthusiast, with a special interest in Online security, Entrepreneurship and Innovation. When not writing about tech he can be found in a Tennis court or on a chess board.
Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.