Private Investigation And Security News

Holiday Season and Cyber Scams

The holiday season is finally here and with so many online deals (such as Cyber Monday), we as a society are purchasing more products from the internet.  While it may be faster and more convenient to shop online, it is also becoming increasingly dangerous.  For the unsuspecting online shopper, there has been a vast increase in fraudulent online activity and theft of personal information.

There are many different ways in which these cyber criminals are targeting online consumers. Phishing e-mails, which are designed to steal your money and personal information by installing malicious software (malware) onto your computer, is one of the most prevalent forms of cyber scams.  Also, these cyber criminals will send false e-mails and create fraudulent websites to imitate legitimate businesses in order to infect an unsuspecting online shopper’s computer with malware.

The Department of Homeland Security describes a few of the most common phishing scams:

  • Phony profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are claiming to be legitimate businesses. These fake profiles will look like their legitimate counterparts but clicking on links in these profiles could allow malicious code to be installed on the victim's computer compromising the victim's security and privacy.
  • Emails from hotels claiming that a "wrong transaction" has been charged to a credit card have also been reported. The hotel will claim to offer a refund if the victim downloads and completes a refund form. Unfortunately, the form is embedded with malicious code and downloading it installs malware onto the victim's computer.
  • Emails which are actually phishing scams involving bogus courier services during the holidays. The fake courier will send an email saying there is a package waiting for the victim and ask for personal information in order to retrieve it.
  • Non-legitimate websites claiming to have the "hot" gift of the season when most legitimate retailers are sold out. The non-legitimate websites will tempt the victim to order from them when they actually do not have the item and will steal their personal information and charge their credit card.


There is another common phishing scam and that is through an e-mail claiming to be your credit card company.  The e-mail details that there has been a fraudulent charge and you must click the link to sign into your account.  While this may look like a legitimate e-mail from your credit card company and appear to be a legitimate website, it is fraudulent.  If there is a fraudulent charge on your account the company will not ask you to respond via e-mail.  If the company calls, they will not ask for detailed personal information such as you social security number.  .


Some helpful hints to remember to avoid becoming the victim of a phishing scam:


  1. Never click on a link within an e-mail.  If you have any suspicions the e-mail is not legitimate, go directly to the website to obtain the information.  By clicking the link you could be opening your computer to malware and other software viruses.


  1. Never open attachments.  Retailers do not usually send e-mails with attachments.  This could be another way for cyber criminals to obtain access to your computer.



  1. Do not give out personal information.  Whether you are contacted via internet or the telephone, never give out your personal information.  You may think this is a reputable company with trustworthy agents, but these could be frauds.  Cyber criminals do not need to use malware or other viruses to access your information; you could give it out willingly if you fall for this scam.


Protect your identity and your personal information.  Be aware of your actions on the internet and over the phone.  Do not give these cyber criminals access to your life.