Black Friday, Beware: Stay Ahead of Scams this Holiday Season

November 22, 2021

While cybersecurity awareness is a year-round venture, it is especially important to be mindful during certain times of the year. With Thanksgiving here in the United States on Thursday, our thoughts will likely be on our family and friends and everything we have to be thankful for this holiday season. But we should also remember that cybercriminals have a lot to be grateful for as the clock strikes midnight and we turn into a frenzy of bargain shoppers looking to save on that 'once in a lifetime deal' on the latest tech gadget.

Great Deals and Steals (for Cybercriminals)

Black Friday and Cyber Monday both have us thinking about items that are in limited quantities, or sales that will only happen for a few hours. Because we’re so rushed to purchase gifts for our family and friends (and ourselves if we’re being honest), we often stop thinking about the cautious tips drilled into us by our security teams.

The push by retailers to act quickly and the sheer volume of savings and discount opportunities available help play into the social engineering element in which attackers thrive. And as it applies with most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true, then it's likely too good to be true.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take advantage of those deals. Black Friday truly is an opportunity to get great prices on the items that are at the top of Santa’s list. But while you’re on the prowl to save a bunch of money, here are a few reminders to ensure those deals don't turn into a goldmine for criminals.

Where's My Package?

Non-delivery scams occur when you purchase something from a website, expect it to arrive, and are left realizing the 'vendor' was a scam artist happy to take your money with no intention of providing the product you bought. You can avoid these types of scams by checking the reputation of the website and the company selling the product.

Check the reviews and complete a quick search to quickly find if that company is real or fake. Better Business Bureau is a great place to verify that the company you’re purchasing from is legitimate. And while this is not a cybersecurity tip, it’s always a good idea to create alerts for the delivery of any packages to help avoid the uptick of 'porch pirates' looking for opportunistic treasures.

How Nice of Them to Reach Out..

A good rule of thumb, if your bank, a delivery service, or any company you do business with is proactively reaching out to obtain information, avoid clicking links at all costs. No matter how often banks and online retailers remind the public, scammers always find the curious or concerned victims willing to take the bait.

Don't provide sensitive information over the phone or online, and never click any links sent to you via email or text. If you are concerned, call the company directly (after you validate you have the correct contact information) or visit their website to check on your account or order.

Thanks for the Gift!

Scammers and fraudsters want your credentials. Credentials to your email tend to be one of the best gateways to the rest of your life, and can provide all types of personal information and banking details. Be aware of any links that ask you to sign in with email credentials.

A common trick by cybercriminals is to provide a Google or Microsoft authentication page that looks real and upon completion, forward you directly to the intended link. The part you miss is where the criminal captured your user name and password as part of the scam. Making matters worse, we tend to be creatures of habit, so your email password is likely similar, if not the same, as your Amazon or PayPal or bank password. The best way to avoid this trick is to avoid clicking on links and instead visiting the website directly.

Staying Safe This Shopping Season

While many of these scams look to target individuals, Black Friday is an annual phenomenon that impacts businesses, even outside of the United States. This is especially true of those organizations that use Black Friday to purchase customer or employee appreciation gifts, or as a time to stock up on materials needed for the office in the coming year.

Cybercriminals will always take advantage of events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday—times when people will let their guard down—to socially engineer their way to financial gain, at the expense of businesses and people alike. Reminding your employees of this fact is one way to help them stay safe this holiday season. And with the end of the year near for most companies, it is also a great time to review the state of controls for your email security program. After all, the best way to prevent employees from falling victim to yet another Amazon scam is to block those emails before they even reach inboxes.

Discover more about how to prevent socially-engineered attacks from reaching your employees by requesting a demo of Abnormal today.

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