E-card scams: Moms, dads, and grads, beware of the singing cat
April 10, 2022 4 min read
E-card scams appear year-round, targeting holidays and special events, like Mother’s Day and graduation day. Here’s what to do if you think you’ve received a fake e-card.
You’re surfing the internet when a message pops up saying someone sent you an e-card. Watch out: You might be on the edge of falling for an e-card scam.
You might think clicking and opening an e-card will give you a smile. You might expect to find a singing cat, a cute poem, or virtual vase of flowers. That would be a nice surprise.
But not every surprise is nice. You won’t be delighted if the message comes from an e-card scammer. These scams could cost you money. In the most extreme of cases, a cybercriminal might use an e-card scam to steal your identity.
Spring and summer targets: Moms, dads, and grads
Cybercriminals often tailor their scams to seasons, holidays, and events. They think that victims are more likely to fall for e-card scams and other tricks when they’ve got these special events on their minds. And unfortunately? They’re often right.
And during the warmer months? Spring and summer events include Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and graduation, all juicy opportunities for scammers ready to launch e-card scams.
That’s why moms, dads, new grads, and anyone else marking a special occasion should pause and think before clicking on an e-card.
No matter the season, it’s important to watch out for e-card scams and fight the urge to impulse-click when an electronic card pops up in your email inbox. Cybercriminals design e-card scams for Valentine’s Day through to Christmas and all the holidays between.
How do e-card scams work?
You might get a message via email, text, or social media telling you someone sent you an e-card from Hallmark. As with all e-cards, you’ll be asked to click on a link to open your new Hallmark e-card.
But what if the message isn’t coming from Hallmark but was sent from a scammer? You might click and find there’s no balloons, dancing cats, or singing penguins. Instead, the link supposedly sent by Hallmark, American Greets, or any other card company could instead install malware on your computer.
Once the malware is on your device, scammers can do harm in a variety of ways. Here are four of them.
1. Steal your identity
A type of malware known as spyware might be able to gather personal information such as your full name, Social Security number, bank logins, and other information from your keystrokes or any messages you send and websites you visit. ID thieves can use this personal data to steal your identity and open new bank and credit card accounts in your name.
2. Scam your friends
A scammer may be able to access your login credentials and hijack your email account. This crook might then send scam emails to your contacts. These emails might hit up your contacts for money or include a link that could install malware on their own devices.
3. Annoy you with pop-up ads
Another type of malware might subject you with ads that pop up and try to convince you to buy a bogus product. You might wake up at 3 a.m. to the sound of notifications. When you turn on your phone, it’s filled with messages from scammers hawking diet pills or other shady wares.
4. Part with your cash:
A phony e-card may not always install malware on your device. Another scammer trick is to create a page that looks kind of like an e-card from a company such as Hallmark but also asks you to buy a product or “donate” to a phony charity.
Given the risks, it’s smart to know the signs of e-card email scams and what to do if one shows up on your phone, tablet or computer.
Signs an “e-card” might be a scam
So how can you tell if an e-card in your inbox is safe to click?
Legitimate e-cards come from reputable e-card companies like American Greetings, Blue Mountain, Hallmark, and Jacquie Lawson.
Don’t recognize the name of the e-card company? Do an online search for information, Also, try typing in the company name plus the word scam into your browser. You might discover that the sender is well-known for e-card scams.
Even if the message seems to come from Hallmark, American Greetings, Blue Mountain, or any other real e-card company, double-check the name and URL. Scammers sometimes intentionally misspell the name of a legitimate company to trick recipients.
4 steps to take if you think you received a fake e-card.
Don’t just click automatically when you get an e-card message. Instead, take these four steps:
See who sent the card. Delete any “e-card” message that doesn’t name a real sender you know. Scammers may claim “someone you know” or “a friend” or “a secret admirer” sent you the e-card. This is a red flag. Look instead for e-cards sent from family members, friends, or co-workers.
Check with the sender. If the message names a friend or relative as the sender, contact the person and ask if they sent you an e-card. Wait for confirmation before you click.
Protect yourself. Make sure your email spam filter is working. Install security software on your computer, tablet, or phone. And update that security software regularly to protect yourself from e-card scammers and other fraudsters in the future. These programs could protect your devices even if you accidentally open a scam e-card.
Scammers count on you to assume e-cards are harmless fun. And they can be, as long as you take a moment to verify that the greeting is legitimate before you click.
Cyber threats have evolved, and so have we.
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Dan Rafter is a freelance writer who covers tech, finance, and real estate. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Fox Business.
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