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Over 50% Indians fell prey to discount scams. Tips to stay safe this holiday season

A new trend that hit unsavvy consumers hard this festive season was through phony gift cards.

ET Online|
Updated: Dec 10, 2019, 10.13 PM IST
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Users should undertake necessary measures to protect themselves from doing online shopping.
The year 2019 saw some rather 'innovative' ways in which cyber criminals stole our hard earned money. And with Christmas and New Year just around the corner, we have some bad news for you - cyber criminals, like you, also make merry during the holiday season.

McAfee released a survey today, in which it found that 56.1 percent Indians have fallen victim to discount scams, by clicking on links that took them to 'sketchy' websites.

The survey, A Christmas Carol: Scam Edition, highlights how the year end festivities present a variety of threats, with more than half (53.6 percent) Indians falling victim to scams resulting from deceiving apps.

While cyber-criminal activity continues to grow in sophistication, popular scams like email phishing (25.3 percent) and text phishing (21.1 percent) still result in close to a quarter of Indians being duped throughout the season.

McAfee commissioned 3Gem to conduct a survey of 1,000 adults in India over the age of 18. With all the respondents celebrating Christmas, regardless of the religion, the sample accounted for key characteristics such as gender, family and geographical demographics.

Here are more findings from the survey.

Different ways Indian shoppers have gotten conned
More than 35.4 percent of Indians confess to have been conned by discount scams, where a malicious file was downloaded onto their device. Throughout the festivities, 60.2 percent have fallen victim to robocalling, and 57.1 percent through SIM jacking.

Considering that family vacations and travel are high on the agenda for many Indians, the survey revealed that 78.6 percent of Indians have been impacted by seasonal travel scams.

Venkat Krishnapur, Vice-President - Engineering and Managing Director, McAfee India said, "Consumers choose to beat the holiday rush by purchasing and booking online, but as transactions surge, so do the cyber-attacks. With the sheer volume of people shopping online, they tend to get careless, carried away with discounts, and open themselves to phishing attacks, frauds, malicious websites, and viruses that aim to steal money and personal information."

A staggering number (52.6 percent) of millenials aged between 18 years and 24 years, faced the brunt of romance scams and 60 percent in the same age group agree to being scammed by e-greetings.

Target sighted: The unsavvy consumer
A new trend that hit unsavvy consumers hard this festive season was through phony gift cards. A total 39.3 percent Indians were directed to a site, where they were asked to input personal information such as name, telephone number or credit card information, with 40 percent losing between Rs 10,000 and 15,000.

The McAfee survey found that 60.7 percent were victims of fake charities, with scammers impersonating genuine trusts to ask for donations.

The following list outlines the 12 scams Indians have fallen prey to in 2019 and the percentage of Indians who have experienced them:
  • Email phishing: 25.3%
  • Deceiving apps: 24.3%
  • Discount scams: 24%
  • Streaming or downloading films/TV: 23.7%
  • Streaming or downloading music: 23%
  • Phony online stores:22.2%
  • Deceptive online games: 21.9%
  • Text phishing: 21.1%
  • Fake charities: 20.4%
  • Fake gift cards: 20.3%
  • Shipping notifications scams: 20.2%
  • Sim jacking: 20%
Tips to stay safe this holiday season
"As threat actors continue to enhance their techniques and explore new creative means of theft, it is crucial that users are mindful of potential risks and undertake necessary measures to protect themselves this holiday season," said Krishnapur.

Here is what McAfee says you should do to safeguard against cyber fraud.

  • Never reuse passwords: With just one hack, cyber-criminals can get their hands-on thousands of passwords, which they can then use to try to access multiple accounts.
  • Always check the email address or website: 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 software which can help protect devices against malware, phishing attacks and other threats, which can help identify malicious websites.
  • Use a tool to help protect your personal information: Takes a proactive approach to help protect identities with personal and financial monitoring and recovery tools to help keep identities personal and secure.

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