12 Scams of Christmas: Watch out for E-Card greeting scam

Local News

Well some have already started sending out their holiday greeting cards and many are doing it electronically but, what may seem like harmless message from a friend could be a crook trying to steal your information.

Many of us are looking for more affordable, paperless ways to wish our loved ones a happy holiday. E-Card scams look legitimate they usually come in the form of a email with a link. That link should take you to a greeting but, instead it gives you a virus or steals your information.

“Happy Holidays a friend sent you a holiday greeting,” is what the subject of the email might read. One click is all it takes and your precious information could be in the hands of a scammer.

“It is a very lucrative thing for what amounts to little or no effort you can remember that, little to no effort and when they send these things out they are not just sending them to two or three people these things are sent out to tens of thousands of people,” said cyber crime expert and Director of of Special Programs at the Center for Applied Cyber Education, Wayne Willcox.

Willcox works at Georgia Southern University and one of the things he does is help prepare companies for these kinds of data breaches. In this case scammers are using the name of legitimate companies like Hallmark claiming your family member or colleague sent you an e-card. Sometimes the email might even contain your name. 

“It makes it look like oh wow this is easy I can just click on it put in a little information and its done, I don’t have to fight the crowds, I don’t have to drive the car, I don’t have to do all those normal things that we use to do for shopping so it becomes a convenience thing and I think that works in the favor of the criminal because they take advantage of that.” said Willcox.

Once they get hold of your information finding those criminals is almost impossible. “With cyber crime you know the individual may not even be in this country, they can use cyber technology to hide behind multiple layers to where it makes it very very difficult to get the cooperation and have the expertise to actually identify the person, or persons, or organization responsible,” said Willcox.

In 2017 Georgia ranked 9th in country for most identity theft crimes reported, according to the Federal Trade Commission and not only is it a hard crime track but it can also have long lasting effects.

“It will be a process of trying to correct your identity and to correct your information that could take months and in some cases years to get corrected yea its very traumatic for the people that have to go through it,” said Willcox.

To avoid getting scammed Willcox says you should look for things like spelling mistakes in the email or awkward grammar. If you are sent a link that is missing the “s” in https or the link says something other than the companies name than it may be fake.

“The best tip I can give right now is if you get an email from a source that you did not approach, that you don’t know who they are, in other words its totally unsolicited, you don’t recognize them then you need to be very careful about responding to them,” said Willcox.

Willcox says the most troubling things about these crimes is that most local law enforcement aren’t equipped to deal with them. A majority of local police departments don’t have a cyber crime division so these crimes often go unreported.   

He and his team are working to create a regional cyber operation center on Georgia Southern’s campus that would jumpstart the cyber investigation capabilities of criminal justice agencies in 50 surrounding counties in this area. 

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