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Five scams to look out for this winter as online fraud trebles since 2020

One common scam is for a malicious caller to pose as your bank or another company with whom you hold an account.

Russian hackers behind fresh US cyberattack: Microsoft
Microsoft has warned of a new hack - Copyright AFP/File Lionel BONAVENTURE
Microsoft has warned of a new hack - Copyright AFP/File Lionel BONAVENTURE

Experts at VPNOverview have told Digital Journal the top five scams to look out for over the holiday period, as demand for the best deals skyrockets. 

With Black Friday approaching, avid shoppers are keen to get their hands on the top deals with searches for ‘best black Friday deals’ up by 400 percent in the last month. 

Cybersecurity Expert, Christopher Bulvshtein, from VPNOverview has outlined the most concerning scams to look out for whilst you’re bargain hunting and how to best protect yourself. 

Phishing Attacks

“Phishing is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it still works. The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) estimates that attacks tripled from 2020 – 2021. There have already been one million attacks in the first half of 2022”, explains Bulvshtein.

In terms of examples, Bulvshtein cites: “Cybercriminals have become adept at perfectly timing and tailoring phishing emails or texts towards specific events throughout the year, including Black Friday. Expect to see emails from Amazon asking you to update your payment information, for example. You might also receive emails that look like a genuine delivery notification with pending delivery charges. It’s rare that these are real.”

There are measures to take, notes Bulvshtein: “In order to protect yourself, don’t click on any links within emails. In 2022, it doesn’t matter who they’re from; it’s not worth the risk. Go directly to the company’s website if you suspect there might be a problem with your account that needs attention.”

Verification Code Hijacking

Explaining the scam, Bulvshtein outlines: “One common scam is for a malicious caller to pose as your bank or another company with whom you hold an account. They’ll tell you there’s a problem with your account. They’ll then say that they’re sending a text message to you, with a code to prove your identity.”

Expanding on this, Bulvshtein clarifies: “By posing as an official company, they turn the tables on you. You’re put on the spot and expected to prove who you are. Actually, they’re the criminal, and they already have your password. That code you’re handing over will allow them to process a payment or log into your account with two-factor authentication. Unfortunately, many companies will no longer refund customers who willingly handed over a security passcode.”

For safeguards, Bulvshtein advises: “Be sure to use a password manager to create strong, secure, and unique passwords.Set up two-factor authentication on your essential, high-risk accounts, such as bank, credit, and shopping websites. Also, never engage with suspicious callers. If in doubt, hang up – and crucially, listen for the dial tone – before calling the company back from the number listed on their official website (or the back of your card).”

Malicious Browser Extensions

Here Bulvshtein explains: “Many extensions are considered browser hijackers. At best, they could change your browser settings and fill your inbox with spam or phishing emails. At worst, they could install malware on your device that compromises your accounts and online security in general.”

And for protection: “We advise against installing browser extensions that offer shopping discounts, unless you’re certain that they’re safe, well-tested tools.”

Little-known Websites

Bulvshtein cautions: “Be wary of the websites you use to look for Black Friday deals. We’ll all be familiar with Amazon and other big-brand names, but if you come across lesser-known websites, do your research on them first. Check out websites like TrustPilot and look for social proof. If there’s very little information – or bad reviews – on the company, it’s better to look elsewhere.”

Is it definitely a discount?

Beware the offer that seems too good to be true. Bulvshtein warns: “Certain websites

may increase their prices at the last minute, before applying a percentage discount during the sales. The resulting price makes it appear as if you’re getting a good deal. In reality, the product could be equally as expensive as it was before the sale began, except now it has an appealing discount sticker. We’ve seen products cost more during Black Friday than they ordinarily would have before the sales started.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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