Home Business & Industry 6 Cyber Scams to Watch Out for This Christmas, Cyber Experts Warn

6 Cyber Scams to Watch Out for This Christmas, Cyber Experts Warn

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Cybercrime experts at the NEBRC have issued a warning to consumers and small businesses in the North East, Yorkshire, and Humber, urging them to stay vigilant in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The team of cyber experts and police partners is encouraging those in the region to take preventative actions to avoid falling victim to cyber criminals this Christmas season.

This time last year, online shoppers in the UK lost over £10 million to cybercriminals, according to the NCSC (data from November 2022 and January 2023). However, Rebecca Chapman, CEO and director at The Business Resilience Centre for the North East (NEBRC) and retired police superintendent, warns, “It isn’t just consumers who need to be alert during the Christmas season, though. Businesses are also targets, with the average annual cost of cybercrime for business victims being approximately £15,300.”

Rebecca continues, “Increased footfall, website traffic, and sales in the lead up to Christmas and the subsequent sales make even small businesses a high-value target for cybercriminals. Stretched teams of staff can create vulnerabilities, exposing employees, employers, and customers to threats.

“Scams are becoming increasingly convincing, with technology such as AI and language processing tools being used by criminals. We often see similar scams during each festive season, from fake charity donation links to emails and texts from senders posing as delivery companies. Being vigilant with what you are opening, clicking, and sharing online is the best way to prevent falling victim.”

6 seasonal scams to watch out for

1. Phishing and smishing scams

This includes emails and texts which have links designed to either extort or allow ransomware to enter. To avoid clicking on these, always check who the message is from. If you don’t recognise it, report it and block it.

2. Charity scams

This type of threat is particularly prevalent as the nation tends to be in a giving mood at Christmas. Criminals will create links to fake websites for donations, which can look extremely convincing. When donating, always check for the charity number and give only via official channels on the charity website.

3. Remote access scams

Keep an eye out for someone contacting you, saying they are your IT support. Threat actors may try asking for access to your devices via pop-up or text; however, real IT support team members would not contact you in this way. They would call or email, and you can always check by calling the number you have stored in your official documents and contacting them previously. Or even just look at your support provider’s website to double-check that you are speaking with the right people.

4. Fake companies accessed via social media

It can be tempting to click on product links or businesses on social media while scrolling; however, fake companies can and do target victims this way. They play on the impulsive nature of social media. Always check the company name in a recognised search engine to establish if it is real or not. Check the reviews and customer interactions to see if they do what they say they do.

5. Cost of living scams

This includes scams relating to grants or loans, fuel vouchers, supermarket offers, energy rebates, or fake investments. Victims are tricked into clicking on links that allow ransomware to extract personal information by offering discounts or financial support, playing on an individual’s struggles. For any communication like this, stop and think; if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. Check it out with the originator, not the link or sender in the emails.

6. Pet scams

The demand for pedigree pets at this time of year can cause animal lovers to fall victim to scams. Fake sellers encourage “purchases” of non-existent, pedigreed pets online. If you are looking to buy a pedigree pet, check out the seller at the kennel club or equivalent. Look for reviews, and if paying for the animal, do so by credit card, as this allows some protection if all other checks have been made.

Consumers can find advice online, and for businesses, awareness and training are vital. This is why the NEBRC offers free core membership to those in the North East, Yorkshire, and Humber regions. Providing advice and support so that businesses remain safe and can enjoy a profitable Christmas season.

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