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22 Nov, 2019

Cybercriminals’ Holiday Traditions May Cost Consumers Hundreds of Dollars

SANTA CLARA, Calif., 19 November 2019, BUSINESS WIRE – Today McAfee, the device-to-cloud cybersecurity company, announced findings from its recent survey, A Christmas Carol: Scam Edition, revealing that nearly half (48%) of Americans have been a victim of or know someone who has been a victim of robocalling in 2019, making it the worst scam of the year and one to watch out for this Holiday season.

While cybercriminal activity has grown in sophistication, scams of Christmas past are still haunting Americans today–respondents reported being targeted with email phishing (41%) and text phishing (35%). These scams along with robocalling are the top three prominent scams of the year.

McAfee A Christmas Carol: Scam Edition (Graphic: Business Wire)

Together, these scams have hit Americans hard, with McAfee survey respondents admitting that these scams took a financial toll on them in 2019, with 74% losing more than $100 and almost a third (30%) losing more than $500. And according to McAfee Advanced Threat Research (ATR), more than 2.2 billion stolen account credentials were made available on the cybercriminal underground over the course of Q1 2019. This growing trend of personal online accounts for retailers being made available on the underground, and increasingly sophisticated threats means that the 2019 Holidays could be the most dangerous yet for consumers.

“Just like your family, cybercriminals have holiday traditions and they are constantly looking for ways to take advantage of holiday shoppers,” said Gary Davis, Chief Consumer Security Evangelist at McAfee. “While most consumers believe that cyber-scams become more prevalent during the holiday season, a third don’t actually take any steps to change their online behavior. It is crucial that we are mindful of potential risks and take the proper steps to protect ourselves this holiday season.”

As consumers use their devices and apps for everyday tasks, like holiday shopping, streaming TV shows and food delivery services, they are sharing more personal information than ever before. By targeting popular consumer apps, cybercriminals are able to collect and store key data, including home addresses, credit card information and account passwords. This adds a layer of complexity to cybersecurity that consumers didn’t face years ago and adding to the potential of that information being used for malicious activity sometime in the future.

One new trend that is set to hit unsavvy consumers hard this Holiday season is phony gift cards, with McAfee’s ATR team seeing phony gift cards sold on the cybercriminal underground. Yet, the survey found that not even half (43%) of respondents are aware of bogus gift cards. Consumers are also not doing their own due diligence when it comes to checking shopping websites. According to McAfee research, over one-third (37%) of respondents admit that they do not check an email sender or retailer’s website for authenticity.

Tips to stay safe this holiday season:

  • Never reuse passwords. With just one hack, cybercriminals can get their hands-on thousands of passwords, which they can then use to try to access multiple accounts.
  • Stop and pause. Instead of clicking on a link in an email, it is always best to check directly with the source to verify an offer or shipment.
  • Browse with security protection. Use comprehensive security protection, like McAfee Total Protection, which can help protect devices against malware, phishing attacks and other threats. It includes McAfee WebAdvisor, which can help identify malicious websites.
  • Use a tool to help protect your personal information. A solution like McAfee Identity Theft Protection takes a proactive approach to help protect identities with personal and financial monitoring and recovery tools to help keep identities personal and secure

Survey Methodology:

McAfee commissioned 3Gem to conduct a survey of 1,000 adults in the U.S. over the age of 18 between October 10-20, 2019.