Protect Yourself from Holiday Shopping Scams

By: Robert Siciliano  |  December 22, 2015


Even though the highly publicized retail data breaches have involved off-line brick and mortar stores, this doesn’t mean that security is high with online shopping. Scammers and hackers are waiting for you in more ways than you know, such as:

  • Fake product reviews
  • Non-existent products
  • Delivered products that don’t match what was seen on the retail site
  • Shoppers being tricked into typing their credit card information into a purchase form on a phony shopping site
  • Malicious attachments and phishing emails offering too good to be true discounts to install malware on your device.

Let’s explore online shopping scams in more detail.

First up are malicious links and malments (malicious attachment).

  • You receive an e-mail pitching a great product deal; click on the link to learn more or to make the purchase. The scammer often makes the e-mail look like it came from a leading retailer. Clicking the e-mail may download a virus, or take you to the scammer’s website where you’re tricked into “buying” non-existent products—giving out your credit card information.
  • An e-mail may contain an attachment that, when opened, downloads a virus.
  • The e-mail may appear to come from UPS (but it’s really from the crook), and if you just by chance recently ordered something for delivery by UPS, you’re then easily tricked into clicking a “track your order” link.
  • Never click links or open attachments from e-mails that you’re not outright expecting, especially if there are typos in the message.


  • If it’s too good to be true, then it’s too good to be true.
  • Be suspicious if a coupon site with fantabulous deals wants all sorts of personal information from you, as in, “What do they need to know that for?”
  • Fraudulent coupon sites often have typos including poor punctuation.
  • Annoying pop-up windows should send you running.

Gift Cards

  • Same thing as above: If it’s too good to be true, then assume it’s a scam.
  • Just delete any gift card e-mails pitching amazing deals, especially if there’s a link in the message.
  • Never fill out personal information in a form inside an unsolicited e-mail for some fantastic deal.

Not every gift card related e-mail is fraudulent. If the e-mail appears to be from someone you know, contact that person for verification before opening any attachment or following any links. A tip that it’s legitimate is that it has a code so that you can claim the gift; a tip that it’s a scam is that it’s asking you for your credit card information.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to discussing  identity theft prevention.

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