As people scramble to find those last-minute gifts for their loved ones, cyber criminals are likely to attempt some sophisticated, wide-reaching scams in an attempt to part desperate shoppers from their money.
Beware the Too Good to Miss 'Offers'
The old saying "if it's too good to be true, it probably is" should be at the forefront of your mind while searching for gifts throughout the whole of the Christmas shopping period - even more so as you reach the last few days and start to panic.
It's at times like this (especially in the wake of a new round of games console launches) that fraudsters see the perfect opportunity to attempt to part you with your hard-earned cash, by offering you an item that is probably top of your child/partner's wish list (and in fairly short supply).
The sad fact is, that they may never deliver on the promise they supposedly make to you (as they very often don't have the item they're selling).
There are already reports of people who have been duped by unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of the desires of people to own the latest and greatest gadgets.
In most cases, your credit card company will settle the matter, but that's a major inconvenience that most people could do without in the run up to Christmas.
Beware the Unexpected E-Mail
Your inbox probably gets flooded with spam throughout the year - but the amount of it you get before Christmas increases dramatically (and some of it is starting to get very clever).
You may see offers for well-known (often expensive) items that claim that the latest and greatest 'must-have' phone/tablet/etc. can be yours in time for Christmas for a surprisingly low amount of money.
Again: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
You may even receive fake gift certificate e-mails (which you may be inclined to open because your friends/family may have sent you one for Christmas before). These e-mails can look very convincing (as they're often based on e-mails for actual gift certificates.
Even opening these e-mails could put your computer at risk, as they may contain viruses that can cause significant damage to your files.
If they're not carrying viruses that will cause you major issues just before Christmas, they will often ask you to supply the login details of your account for the company the certificate supposedly came from (as the authentic ones do, so they can be applied to your account).
However, supplying it to the sites these e-mails will take you to will basically give control of your account to the scammers, who will then use it to purchase large numbers of items that you will pay for!
Our Tips for Staying Safe This Christmas
If the above has got you about to throw your computer out of the nearest window - don't panic!
We have some fairly simple advice that will help you keep your personal information safe over Christmas.
- Only shop at trusted online retailers - This may seem obvious, but in the last-minute panic that occurs before Christmas, you may be tempted to try and find that gift at a site you've never heard of before.Even if Amazon can't deliver the item you're ordering in time for Christmas any more, ordering it from them (or another of the major retailers) is still the safest option - your family member/friend will get it, just not in time to open it on Christmas Day.
- If you receive an electronic gift certificate, check with the person who supposedly sent it to you - This may seem like a strange thing to do, but in the world of the Internet, you can't guarantee that any part of an e-mail (even the address it came from) is authentic.If you get an e-mail containing a gift certificate from someone you know, check with them that they actually sent it.
- Above all, remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
We hope you have a happy (and safe) Christmas.