It’s Thanksgiving in America, which means you’re getting a barrage of Black Friday emails promoting discounts on your holiday shopping. Here are the email scams to watch out for.
You’ve heard the one about the Nigerian prince and the lottery windfall (we just need your bank account and social security number!). But email phishing scams are getting more sophisticated and persuasive. While they come in a variety of forms, the general goal of a phishing attack is to trick you into giving away sensitive personal information.
We’ve done some research and put together a list of Black Friday email scams that tend to crop up around this time of year. If you know their strategies, it’s much easier to protect yourself and your online accounts.
The fake promotion
This is the traditional phishing attack in which scammers try to coax you into clicking on a link to a special offer, but instead you will either accidentally download malware or you’ll be asked to enter some personal information. They may dress it up as a Black Friday deal using the corporate logos of trusted companies.
By the way, we’re going to be sending emails to users announcing the annual ProtonMail Black Friday sale. You may also receive an email about the ProtonVPN Black Friday sale. These emails will be starred automatically in your Inbox. Emails claiming to be from ProtonMail without a star are phishing attacks, and you can report them.
There’s a problem with your account
Similar to the first example, the hackers want you to click a link, claiming there’s a problem with your Amazon, eBay, or other online account. They might tell you there’s been suspicious activity or they need you to update your information. But if you click the link, the webpage will be a spoofed version of the real website. And if you enter your login credentials there, you would in fact be entering them into the hacker’s database. The best way to be sure is to check the URL of the page carefully before you enter any information. Make sure it is belongs to the company in question (e.g. amazon.com instead of fakewebsite.com).
When you buy a lot of stuff online quickly, it can be difficult to keep track of all the retailer emails associated with those purchases. Hackers will be taking advantage of the high number of email receipts. They may pose as Amazon or an Amazon vendor telling you that your purchase receipt is attached. But in fact the attachment installs malware on your device. Check carefully to make sure the email is indeed coming from a trusted source, and do not download suspicious attachments.
We couldn’t deliver your package
A shipping company, such as FedEx or DHL, might email you claiming your package could not be delivered or asking you to confirm shipping details. Except it’s not really FedEx or DHL. It’s a hacker asking you to click a link where you enter personal or account information, or ask you to download a form (aka malware).
Protecting against Black Friday email scams
Defending against Black Friday email scams boils down to recognizing them and then simply ignoring them. Here are some rules to live by:
- If you get an email telling you about a deal, make sure the link directs you to the retailer’s official website, and not a phishing website. If you hover your curser over the link, you can see the target URL in the bottom right or left of your browser.
- If a deal appears too good to be true, it probably is. Check the retailer’s website or social media sites to make sure the deal is real.
- Any email claiming to be from ProtonMail that isn’t starred by default is a phishing attack.
- You can also help the ProtonMail community filter out phishing scams by reporting phishing to our team. Follow the link to learn how to use our report phishing tool.
- Don’t enter your information on a website unless you’re positive it’s a legitimate website. The best way to do this is to check there is a valid SSL certificate, and make sure the URL is correct.
If you receive any other Black Friday email scams this year, let us know in the comments or on our social media pages. We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving to our American users, and safe shopping to everyone.
The ProtonMail Team
You can get a free secure email account from ProtonMail here.
We also provide a free VPN service to protect your privacy.