How to identify and avoid email scams at Christmas

SmartCompany, November 13, 2017

In the lead up to Christmas, it’s not uncommon to find your inbox flooded with emails from retailers offering gift cards and top deals for the holiday season. A lot of the time these emails are legitimate.

However, lurking in your inbox is the occasional wolf in sheep’s clothing: the scam email.

Scammers often prey on the season’s activity, with emails claiming you have won a free voucher, or that a parcel has been delivered. Add in some unbeatable holiday offers and a plea from a charity or two, and your inbox can quickly turn into a minefield.

Read more: Don’t be a victim: From gift cards scams to email fraud, three common traps to avoid this Christmas

How do you identify a scam email?

For holidays, most legitimate websites and peer-to-peer platforms, such as Airbnb, set up secure payment systems where the operator acts as an intermediary between the traveler and property owner, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard said this time last year.

Scammers will often direct you away from the official site, and ask you to pay them through other methods, be that via wire transfers, direct debit or through another website.

“Any request for payment to be made via a method other than through the approved payment methods stated on the actual site should be ignored,” Rickard said, adding, “if you receive an email about an undeliverable package, don’t open any attachments or download files — delete it straight away.”

A typical scammer tactic is to send emails pretending to be Australia Post or FedEx, trying to trick you into believing you have an ‘undeliverable package’, complete with legitimate-looking company information and complete with fake logos.

What to do if your customers get a scam email from your business

Unfortunately, scammers make a living impersonating other businesses. While these are often targeted to larger businesses — Origin Energy, Woolworths, Coles and NBN Co all making headlines of recent times — it is worth being mindful of what to do if you are in this situation.

Crisis communication Nicole Matejic previously told SmartCompany that it’s important that businesses acknowledge these scams.

“I think we’ve seen a couple of airlines in the past trying to put their head in the sand about these kind of scams. Then people get angry at the brand anyway,” Matejic said.

Matejic suggests companies leverage advice given out by government regulators to remind customers to be vigilant.

“Educate, create awareness and use opportunities like the police, the ACCC and the Australian Communications and Media Authority when you can,” she says.

Five ways to avoid the scam email

  • Regularly backup your computers on a separate hard drive so that if your data is stolen, you’re protected
  • Never click on links or download files you’re not sure about
  • Check the email address of the sender — often the email addresses will clearly be fake
  • Be wary of anything with spelling mistakes or poor grammar

If someone is asking you to pay outside a known platform, check in on the official site first and confirm that this is legitimate practice.