E-card scams: Moms, dads, and grads, beware of the singing cat
April 28, 2021
You’re relaxing and enjoying the day when a message pops up saying someone sent you an e-card. Watch out: It might be a scam.
You may think clicking and opening an e-card will make you 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 a scammer. You could lose money or become a victim of identity theft.
Spring and summer targets: Moms, dads, and grads
Cybercriminals often tailor scams to seasons, holidays, and events. Spring and summer events include Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and graduation.
That’s why moms, dads, new grads, and anyone else marking a special occasion should pause and think before clicking on an e-card.
Keep in mind, no matter what season, it’s a good idea to watch out for e-card scams and fight the urge to impulse-click. Cybercriminals design e-card scams for Valentine’s Day to Christmas and all the holidays in between.
How e-card scams work
You might get a message via email, text, or social media telling you someone sent you an e-card and asking you to click on a link. If the message came from a scammer, you might click and find there’s no card.
Instead, the link could 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.
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. ID thieves can use this personal data to steal your identity and open new accounts in your name.
Scam your friends: A scammer may be able to access your login credentials and hijack your email account to 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 device.
Annoy you with pop-up ads: Another type of malware might subject you with ads that pop and try to convince you to buy a bogus product. You might wake up at 3 a.m. to the sound of notifications. It’s scammers hawking diet pills or other shady wares from your computer.
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 but also makes a pitch for you to buy a product or “donate” to a phony charity.
Given the risks, it’s smart to know the signs of a bogus electronic greeting and what to do if you get one.
Signs an “e-card” might be a scam
So how can you tell if that e-card waiting to be picked up is safe to click or not?
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.
Even if the message seems to come from a 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.
- 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.
- Report the scam. Did you determine the “e-card” you received is actually a scam? Warn authorities about the scammers by filing complaints with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
- 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.
Scammers count on you to assume e-cards are harmless fun. And e-cards can be fun, if you take a moment to verify the greeting before you click.
Cyber threats have evolved, and so have we.
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