Holiday package delayed? You may be targeted by scam artists

A lot of us are waiting for holiday packages to arrive but if yours is delayed, you may be targeted by scam artists. Pat Taney reports

By Pat Taney

A lot of us are waiting for packages to be delivered during the holidays. If yours is late, you could be targeted and it could cost you.

For Sue Ferguson, the holiday rush is in full swing.

“It’s been pretty hectic as it always is,” she said.

To save time, she — like many of you — have been ordering gifts online, hoping they arrive before Christmas. Many of the items we order in Canada come from the U.S. and scam artists are trying to cash in on that.

“What we’re seeing here is actually hackers taking advantage of some desperation on our behalf,” said Robert Falzon with Check Point Software in Canada. It’s an agency that creates software to protect businesses and consumers.

“What these fraudsters are looking for are people who’ve ordered something from the U.S.,” he said.

“They send an email stating there is a customs fee associated with it. And if you don’t pay this customs fee, then you’re not going to get the package.”

For some consumers, paying a customs fee is not out of the ordinary.

You do have to pay duty sometimes on things from the U.S., so I could see how that would take people in,” Ferguson said.

But before you do, check the source.

“You have to understand that many retailers and services are not going to send you any emails demanding payment information in the email itself. That’s a red flag right off the bat,” Falzon said.

He suggests you contact the supplier to ensure the request is valid.

Other scams to watch out for: Boxing Day deals, especially emails and social media posts.

A lot of these ads that you get in your inbox really do look legitimate,Falzon said.You get a link with an advertisement of some kind that says, hey, you can get a Gucci purse for $10.”

In the past, you’ve been told to look out for incorrect spelling of words on ads or strange email addresses but Falzon says, the scam artists have corrected those mistakes.

They’ve gotten a lot better at spelling and grammar than I’d like. And as a result of that, these attacks are becoming more successful.”

Simply clicking on the ad — or an attachment sent to your inbox — can spell trouble and leave you a victim of phishing scams.

Those attachments included in the email may look like a PDF or something may actually have malware associated with it,” Falzon said. “It could be ransomware locking up your computer and demanding a ransom. Even your cell phone can be a victim to these things. They’re very, very sophisticated.”

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, there have been nearly 7,000 reported phishing scams this year alone. Most people fall victim by not doing the proper research before clicking on an ad for a product.

What you need to do is go right to the website yourself, open up a browser and go to the site for the place that you’re looking for that product or service to see if that deal is legitimate.”

In other words, take the time — don’t let the rush ruin a good holiday.

“I know it’s the oldest saying in the book but if something looks too good to be true, these days, it likely is,” Falzon said.

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