Tis The Season – To Get Scammed

“Relax. I’ll need some information first. Just the basic facts……..” Pink Floyd (Comfortably Numb)

Here it comes folks. That annual series of events known as Black Friday, (soon to be renamed as Black Thanks-Thursday), Cyber Monday, and all the rest of your shopping time, including the after Christmas sales.  It’s a “wonderful time of the year“, especially if you’re a con man, scam artist or cyber thief.

During the holiday season a vast number of consumers choose to buy gifts from online retailers and the bad guys will take advantage of the increased volume by attempting to exploit those who are unaware of cyber risks and by gaining access to personal information.

Fake profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter will claim to be legitimate businesses. They appear real enough, but clicking on links within those profiles could allow malicious code to be installed on your computer, which may ultimately compromise your privacy and security.

Phishing attempts are also more prevalent this time of year. This is a busy time for travel and you may see an email from a hotel claiming a “wrong transaction” has been charged to a credit card. You’ll be asked to fill out an online refund form, which of course, will request personal information.

Then there’s the ever popular emails from courier or delivery services. (UPS, FedEx, etc.) They’ll inform you that a package is waiting to be delivered, oh, and if you can just please “complete the attached form, we’ll get it delivered promptly”.

Scambook,, a leading complaint resolution website, has compiled a list of top Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams from last year that are likely to re-emerge for the 2013 season to strike shoppers in their wallets.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the top Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams outlined by Scambook:

1. Free Best Buy Gift Card Scam: Last year, scammers were able to rip off unwitting consumers by texting them that if they entered a code either on BestBuyContest.com, BestBuyWin.netor via text, they would receive a free $1,000 Best Buy gift card, Scambook reports. The scam is likely to return this year, though it could be easily amended to use any retailers’ name, so beware of any such “free gift card scam.” It seems that there really is no such thing as a free lunch, or gift card.

2. Fake Ads and Coupons: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are huge days for coupon-clippers, but be sure to verify whether any ads or coupons you hope will save you a few bucks at stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy are actually official publications of the stores and not the products of scammers looking to make an easy dollar off your trust. In this scam, websites offering free downloadable coupons and previews of ads detailing what deals will be offered by what stores are actually just fronts for phishing schemes, which install malware on, and take personal information from, Web users’ computers.

3. Fake eCards and Videos: These scams are not limited to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, instead applying throughout the holiday season. In these scenarios, a phishing account on Twitter or Facebook, or even just an email account, will send holiday- or shopping-themed videos to unsuspecting people. Once these emails are opened and their contents downloaded onto users’ computers, their nefarious side emerges, infecting systems and perhaps even stealing information that can lead to identity theft. One of the best an easiest ways to avoid becoming a victim of this scam is to be sure to open emails only from people and organizations you know and trust.

4. Internet Searches: Even the savviest email watchers and coupon collectors can easily fall victim to search engine scams. Through the use of various techniques, fraudsters get their websites promoted to the top of Google or other search engines, giving browsers the impression that they are real, sanctioned websites. Often they may be related to Black Friday deals or other pertinent topics, but upon clicking on them, they can cause viruses or other malware to be installed on visitors’ computers.

Scare you enough to step away from the computer, put on some pants and actually go out shopping?  Not so fast. Check this out and see how retailers are taking advantage of technology to turn your shopping trip into a very creepy experience.

 In the end, there really is no limit to the number of ways scammers can harm shoppers.  Just remember my take on the old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably some dude, sitting in his underwear, in a beanbag chair, in his mother’s basement, eating Cheetos,  pulling a scam”.

Enjoy! And you’re welcome.


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