Twas the night befraud Christmas: Here are the top three scams to look out for over the holidays

holiday scams

Businesses and individuals are being warned to look out for Grinch-like scammers trying to take advantage of the busy holiday period, with Australia’s consumer watchdog imploring shoppers to have a “healthy dose of scepticism” this Christmas time.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch division has picked out some of the most common, and successful, online scams used by cyber crooks as the mercury rises, with deputy chair Delia Rickard saying the busy season is often used to “fleece people of their money or personal information”.

This warning comes in the wake of another recent warning from Scamwatch, notifying businesses of the possibility of falling prey to ‘spoofed emails’ from hackers pretending to be someone they’re not. According to the regulator, Australia’s SMEs have lost nearly $3 million from these sorts of swindles.

However, when it comes to Christmas time, here’s what you should be looking out for.

1. Online shopping scams

Though both simple and self-explanatory, these sorts of scams are the most successful, roping in over $3 million for crooks in 2018. Online shopping scammers will set up a fake online store with products at ‘too-good-to-be-true’ prices to attempt to trick shoppers into buying stock they don’t have.

These storefronts can often mimic legitimate businesses, leading to additional headaches for businesses who might unknowingly be being impersonated. The ACCC has also warned these scams can appear in online buy/swap groups too.

“We love snagging a great deal online for a loved one’s Christmas present and the idea of a bargain holiday is perfect for many after a long year. But don’t fall for it,” Rickard said in a statement.

“Be sceptical about an online store you haven’t used before. Do some research to see if they’re legitimate and don’t be fooled by big discounts.”

2. Travel scams

Much like the above, scammers attempt to capitalise on holiday deal-seekers looking for a travel bargain by spinning up fake flight deals or cruise packages, only for them to be (predictably) completely phony. According to Scamwatch, nearly $135,000 has been lost to this type of scam in 2018.

“With travel deals, call the accommodation provider directly (for example, the cruise line or hotel) to check if the deal is legitimate,” Rickard said.

“If you see a seemingly great deal on an accommodation rental website like Airbnb, make sure you only communicate and pay through the official site to avoid getting stung by a fake listing.”

3. Parcel delivery scams

Finally, this is a sort of scam regularly seen by businesses throughout the year, but one which ramps up towards Christmas. Scammers will send individuals an email noting they have a package to pick up, however, the email will include a link or attachment.

Those attachments will usually contain malware designed to lock you out of your computer or log your usernames and passwords for sensitive sites, providing hackers with either your personal information or your banking details. About $31,000 has been lost to these scams in 2018.

“We’re all expecting parcels this time of year but be careful about online links and never download attachments,” Rickard said.

“If you’re wondering if a delivery notice is legitimate, check the tracking number at the Australia Post or other delivery company website, or call them directly using a number you find from an online search or the phone book.”

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