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Holiday shoppers should be on high alert for email scams

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Ramsey Solutions’ Rachel Cruze explains.

Holiday shoppers should be on high alert for spam-scams, a new report.

Malicious e-mail disguised as delivery notes or purchase invoices are particularly effective during the holiday season when shoppers are active, says F-Secure, a Helsinki-based cybersecurity company.

“The type of spam that criminals use do not appear as spam to many people this time of the year,” said F-Secures behavioural sciences analyst Adam Sheehan in a statement.

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The “failed delivery notice scam works because it plays on our trust in big brands that we have to deal with on an almost constant basis,” F-Secure said.

In a way, online criminals are amateur behavioral scientists. “They know that we tend to click before we ask questions,” the cybersecurity company said.

Tests performed by F-Secure that simulated Black Friday and Cyber Monday phishing e-mails saw 39 percent more people on this than at other times of the year. Phishing is when an attacker pretends to be a reputable organization, company or person.

F-Secure’s research cites spam campaigns — sent out to a huge number of e-mail addresses — as the most common method for cyber criminals to spread malware in 2018, accounting for 9 of the 10-infection attempts through the year.

A whopping 69 percent of the spam campaigns attempt to trick users into visiting malicious websites and downloading malware-laden file, or other malware, which results in infection, F-Secure said. Malicious attachments were used in the remaining 31 percent, F-Secure added.

Other data points:

  • Banking malware is the most frequently detected malware delivered by spam.
  • The majority of the spam campaigns seen by F-Secure target-users in the US, EU, Canada and Japan.

Retailers try to become better in spotting fraudsters

Shopper-targeted spam “warm up just for the holidays, as cyber criminals rely on the consumer are in a hurry,” said Ryan Wilk, VP of Customer Success for Mastercard property NuData Security, in a statement to Fox News.

Their goal is to steal consumer credit card or account information. “They [the criminals] use this information to take over accounts or the use of the credit cards to steal goods and services online,” Wilk said.

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But retailers are fighting back. Sellers are now becoming more aggressive in trying to separate real customers from fraudsters, Wilk added.

With the help of behavioral analysis and a technique known as a passive form of biometrics which analyses customers ‘ patterns and habits, retailers can have their game, according to Wilk.

“Traders…are in a position to determine whether the rightful user has access and to perform transactions on the account, or if a cybercriminal at work,” Wilk said.

So, what should consumers do? “Keep your system updated and running security software at all times. And train yourself not to click on links in e-mails—especially e-mails related to the shipping industry,” F-Secure said.

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