Cybercriminals run rampant all the time, but the holiday season means that as we ramp up shopping, particularly online, they gear up for prime time.
According to McAfee's A Christmas Carol: Scam Edition survey, 40% of Canadians have been exposed to e-mail phishing scams in 2019, which opens them up to potential scams. Canadians have also fallen victim to robocalling during the holidays (39%) and text phishing (30%). In Q1 2019, more than 2.2 billion stolen account credentials were made available for purchase by underground cybercriminals, as per the McAfee Advanced Threat Research (ATR). And 33% of Canadians have already lost more than $500 after experiencing a scam this year, with more losses expected to come.
The survey found that 40% of Canadians have been a victim of or know someone who has been a victim of e-mail phishing in 2019 making it the worst scam of the year and one to watch out for this holiday season. Robocalling and text phishing, as noted, are the second and third most prominent scams of the year thus far.
Of Canadians who have already been hit by these scams, 65% say they lost more than $100 and almost a third (33%) said they lost more than $500.
"Just like your family, cybercriminals have holiday traditions and they are constantly looking for ways to take advantage of holiday shoppers," says Gary Davis, Chief Consumer Security Evangelist at McAfee. "While most consumers believe that cyber-scams become more prevalent during the holiday season, a third don't actually take any steps to change their online behaviour. It is crucial that we are mindful of potential risks and take the proper steps to protect ourselves this holiday season."
As consumers use their devices and apps for everyday tasks, like holiday shopping, streaming TV shows, and food delivery services, they are sharing more personal information than ever before. By targeting popular consumer apps, cybercriminals are able to collect and store key data, including home addresses, credit card information, and account passwords. This adds a layer of complexity to cybersecurity that consumers didn't face years ago and adding to the potential of that information being used for malicious activity sometime in the future.
Phony gift cards are a new trend set to dominate this year, with McAfee's ATR team seeing phony gift cards sold on the cybercriminal underground. Yet, the survey found that not even one-third (29%) of respondents are aware of bogus gift cards. Consumers are also not doing their own due diligence when it comes to checking shopping websites. According to McAfee research, over one-third (36%) of respondents admit that they do not check an e-mail sender or retailer's website for authenticity.
So how can you stay safe? McAfee suggests, first and foremost, never re-using passwords, which can provide cybercriminals with access to multiple accounts should they gain entry to one, and to think twice before clicking on links in e-mails. In addition to using security protection on your computer and even mobile devices, also use tools that can help protect your personal information and keep your identity secure.
McAfee commissioned 3Gem to conduct a survey of 1,000 adults in Canada over the age of 18 between October 10-20, 2019.
Learn more about common retail scams and how to avoid them in our feature article, Red Flag: You've Been Scammed!