Scam Emails Are Coming to Town


Man using a computer with malware concept on the screen

The frenzied rush of the holidays can cause people to make some regrettable decisions when it comes to the security of their personal information, especially since it’s so easy to buy and send things online without having to stop and think about the consequences. Even though it’s a hectic time of year, there are a few things consumers need to remember before using the Internet to get those last-minute gifts.

Holiday eCards are an inexpensive and eco-friendly way to keep in touch with the friends and family on your Christmas mailing list, but scammers have found a way to use fake eCard notifications to drive recipients to sites that contain harmful viruses. If the links inside of these false eCards are clicked, they download and install malware that can destroy a computer’s hard drive. Genuine eCards contain the name and email address of the person who sent it; scammers’ cards typically do not contain this information, simply a generic eCard provider’s name.

Scam artists also employ the eCard trick during the holidays to steal personal information rather than infect a computer. They send an email that looks like it comes from a bank or well-known company, instructing the recipient to click a link in order claim a bonus or prize they’ve reportedly won. The link redirects to a lookalike website where the person is asked to enter personal data to redeem the offer. The information entered is then collected and used to commit financial fraud or identity theft. The best practice to prevent problems from false eCards and scam emails is to delete – without opening – any messages from unknown or unfamiliar sources.

As the shopping days wind down to Christmas, many retailers will offer deeply discounted items to entice last-minute shoppers to their websites. At the same time, fraudsters will launch spam campaigns designed to look like the well-known stores having late sales. Using official logos and elements stolen from the legitimate website, scammers build a fake site to trick shoppers into inputting financial information.

Even though holiday shopping – with the frantic rushing from store to store, the comparison shopping to find the right price, and the joyful finding of the perfect present – is difficult and time-consuming, BBB reminds everyone to slow down and think before you click. Look carefully at the sources of any emails or notifications you receive to be sure it’s truly coming from someone you know before using any embedded links. If you prefer to use holiday eCards instead of braving the Post Office, make sure to read and understand the online policies of the provider before sharing any information.

Don’t let distractions and rushed decisions cause a blue Christmas this year. If you encounter any unusual online activity, share that information using BBB’s Scam Tracker at scamtracker.org.

Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Tune in Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. with Scott Sloan on 700WLW for The Scam of the Week and every third Thursday with Brian Thomas on 55KRC. In the Greater Portsmouth Area, tune in Tuesdays at 8:05 a.m. on WIOI AM for BBB Chat with Chip Maillet and every third Monday on WNXT AM for Community Corner. Contact Sandra at (513) 639-9126 or sguile@cincinnati.bbb.org. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.