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Five top Internet holiday scams

Ken Kleinlein

Ken Klein­lein

By Ken Kleinlein

Crime Scene

ENGLEWOOD, Fla.  – I received a com­mu­ni­ca­tion from Scott Phayre, in charge of the IT Depart­ment of the Dio­ce­ses of Venice. The con­tent is impor­tant in pro­tect­ing indi­vid­u­als from hol­i­day cyber crime. Scott has con­tributed to Crime Scene in the past.

This hol­i­day sea­son could be the most won­der­ful time of year for cyber crim­i­nals accord­ing to dig­i­tal iden­tity com­pany Threat­Metrix. In a new report the firm reveals that it has detected a 25 per­cent jump in attacks.

Black Friday/Cyber Mon­day Specials

Online scams use a vari­ety of lures to get unsus­pect­ing buy­ers to click on links or open attach­ments. Bad guys build com­plete copies of well-known sites, send emails pro­mot­ing great deals, sell prod­ucts and take credit card infor­ma­tion – but never deliver the goods. Sites that seem to have incred­i­ble dis­counts should be a red flag. Remem­ber that when a “spe­cial offer” is too good to be true, it usu­ally is. For instance, never click on links in emails or pop­ups with very deep dis­count offers for watches, phones or tablets. Go to the web­site your­self through your browser and check if that offer is legitimate.


Com­pli­men­tary Vouch­ers or Gift Cards 


A pop­u­lar hol­i­day scam is big dis­counts on gift cards. Don’t fall for offers from retail­ers or social media posts that offer phony vouch­ers or (Star­bucks) gift cards paired with spe­cial pro­mo­tions or con­tests. Some posts or emails even appear to be shared by a friend (who may have been hacked). Develop a healthy dose of skep­ti­cism and “Think Before You Click” on offers or attach­ments with any gift cards or vouchers!

Bogus ship­ping notices from UPS and FedEx


You see emails sup­pos­edly from UPS and FedEx in your inbox that claim your pack­age has a prob­lem and/or could not be deliv­ered. Many of these are phish­ing attacks that try to make you click on a link or open an attach­ment. How­ever, when you do that your com­puter gets infected with a virus or ran­som ware which holds all your files hostage until you pay a ran­som fee.

Hol­i­day refund scams 


These emails seem to come from retail chains or e-commerce com­pa­nies such as Ama­zon or eBay claim­ing there’s a “wrong trans­ac­tion” and prompt you to click the refund link. How­ever, when you do you are asked to fill out a form, the per­sonal infor­ma­tion you give will be sold to cyber crim­i­nals who use it against you. And never, never, pay online with a debit card, only use credit cards. If the debit card is com­pro­mised, the bad guys can empty your bank account quickly.

Phish­ing on the dark side 


A new phish­ing email has begun cir­cu­lat­ing that tricks peo­ple into think­ing they could win movie tick­ets for the highly-anticipated film, “Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens,” which came out on Dec. 18. The email is a phish­ing attack lead­ing up to the film’s release and shortly after. You need to watch out for this social engi­neer­ing attack and not fall for the scam. Stay safe online!

Bonus tip

Never use an inse­cure pub­lic Wi-Fi to shop with your credit card. Only shop with a secure con­nec­tion at home.

Take care, be care­ful, and I’ll see you at the next Crime Scene.

God bless and pro­tect our mil­i­tary, law enforce­ment, fire fight­ers, and EMT’s.

Ken Klein­lein is a for­mer NYPD Spe­cial Frauds Detec­tive coor­di­nat­ing with local, state and fed­eral law enforce­ment along with accred­ited secu­rity com­pa­nies relat­ing to crime pre­ven­tion and pub­lic information.

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