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A Holiday ‘Phishmas’ Season : Keep Yourself Safe Against Holiday Scams

Here is an article by Manish Alshi, Head, Channels & Emerging Technologies, Check Point Software Technologies, India & SAARC on present day scenario with respect to Cyber security

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Phishes roasting in an open email…malware nipping at your nose. It’s Phishmas and all the hackers are stirring–even your mouse!

It’s that most wonderful time of the year–Phishmas, when hackers get out their naughty and nice list and check it twice. It’s the holiday season when hackers are hard at work trying to phish as many as possible.

In fact, according to Check Point, 17% of all malicious files distributed by email in November were related to orders and shipping; one scam involving a fake Louis Vuitton domain saw 15,000 attacks in a week. Here in India, Check Point Software’s Threat Intelligence Report,  it was reported that India suffered an average of of 1,783 attacks per organization in the third quarter of 2022 and these attacks are expected to rise moving forward, with scams targeting not just organizations, but also individuals especially during this holiday season like Christmas.

To help unsuspecting holiday victims, we’ve taken a number of different attacks that are circulating this holiday season around the world, and which may be seen in a different form here in India to ensure you are aware of such scams and to be on the lookout for them.

These attacks tend to take advantage of shipping and package notifications, as you can imagine, but they go beyond that. We’ve seen a noted increase in impersonation and paycheck fraud. You need money to pay for holiday gifts, and impersonating paycheck notifications or direct deposit can be a great way to scam someone out of money.

Direct Deposit Scam

In order to buy presents, you need money. In that vein, we’re seeing an influx of phishing campaigns surrounding Direct Deposit. The general idea is that a scammer will pose as an employee asking HR or a manager to change their direct deposit information.

In this email, a scammer is impersonating an employee. However, the sender address is a Gmail account. The person asks to change their direct deposit information. Of course, if the change is made, payments will go to the scammer, not the employee.

And if that’s the case, it will make for a bleak holiday for the company and employees alike.

Direct Deposit Scams, Continued

Earlier this week, in our Phishmas series, we discussed the influx we’re seeing in Direct Deposit scams. Essentially, a hacker impersonates an employee and asks HR to change their direct deposit information. When pay day hits, the payment goes to the hacker’s bank account, not the employees.

Though this happens all the time, the fact that we’re seeing an influx around the holiday is an interesting trend. It means that hackers are actively targeting people when they are likely to spend their money the most. Here’s the latest example:

You’ll notice that the email comes from a “” address, and not the company’s address. That’s a tell-tale sign that something is amiss.

In this case, the formula remains the same. Ask for HR to change direct deposit details. Money gets diverted elsewhere.

The Direct Deposit Grinch

We’ve written a lot about Direct Deposit scams. These are common scams, and we’ve seen more of them over the course of the holidays. We believe that this influx is due to the fact that people spend a lot of money around the holidays. This scam has double-cruelty to it. Not only does it steal money, but it steals it around the holidays, when people need it most. Talk about the ultimate grinch. Here’s the latest example we have:

These scams are not super sophisticated. What makes them tricky, however, is the lack of malicious link or attachment. Security scanners often look for those items, since if it’s malicious, it’s an easy block.

When it’s just text, it becomes a bit harder. It’s not entirely out of the ordinary for an employee to change their bank account information. People change banks; sometimes they want their money deposited into multiple accounts. This email in and of itself is not malicious.

The text, however, is where the danger lies. A good email security solution would see that the sender address doesn’t match the company address and block it accordingly.

The Verification Email

During Phishmas, you can expect a large increase of phishing emails from shipping companies like UPS, DHL and FedEx. End-users receive tons of legitimate emails from these companies, making these scam emails seem more legitimate.

In this email, we see a spoof of UPS. The scammers are asking for the user to confirm their email address.

That link, however, goes to a credential harvesting page.

Notice that the sender address is not actually from UPS. This holiday season, check sender addresses before responding to anything–and be sure to check it twice to see who is naughty or nice.

USPS Delivery Status

This Phishmas, we expect to check delivery companies for package and delivery status.

Hackers know this, and will use it to phish their victims. This example is no different. In here, the email comes from the salesperson at the store, trying to be helpful. The salesperson is saying that the USPS wasn’t delivered, and attaches an email that claims to come from USPS.

This is part two of the email.

The link to “Receipt” goes to a OneDrive page, meaning the malicious content is hosted via the file-sharing platform. This is another example of The Static Expressway.

There’s also a call to urgency, with an “overdue date” that will cost the recipient $5.25 a day in storage.

Further, notice how they say you can ask for help at Note that the official USPS URL is

The USPS Amazon Switcharoo

This Phishmas, we’re going to be ordering a ton of things from Amazon.

So you might be expecting email updates about those packages.

In this scam, hackers are hoping you are anxiously awaiting updates and will use it to steal credentials.

There’s a few things off with this email. For one, most Amazon updates will come from Amazon directly. (It’s possible to order packages from Amazon that are sent via USPS, but you’ll still get updates from Amazon.)

Another is the sender address–it doesn’t match. The third is the image–the image is linked to a URL that’s also a credential harvesting page. And finally, there’s the link at the bottom, which also goes to a credential harvesting page.

You’ll also notice grammar issues throughout.

When getting shipping emails this Phishmas season, it’s important to pay attention to:

  • The Sender Address
  • The Grammar
  • The Logic

What do we mean by logic? Many phishing emails don’t follow standard logic. In this case, it’s Amazon updates sent by USPS. Or paying to verify your address. Or saying, “Dear Email User”. When evaluating an email, if the logic isn’t there, it’s probably not safe.

The FedEx Sender Spoof


This Phishmas, be sure you know how to spot all the signs of a bad email.

This email claims to come from a address–although in this case, it’s a clear spoof of the domain.

That’s the only thing that ties to shipping. Everything else is a really poor spoof of a McAfee subscription. There are spelling errors everywhere–it would be a good idea to spell McAfee right in the spoof.

The URL is a clear credential harvesting scheme.

When you see an email like this, even if the sender address appears legitimate, look at the rest of the email. That will alert you that the sender address is actually a spoof.

USPS Off-Track

Tracking numbers are the lifeblood of holiday shipping emails. Most emails you’ll get from delivery services are tracking numbers. And if you’re like some people, including this author, you may check tracking numbers obsessively.

Hackers know this and send tracking numbers that either aren’t legitimate or expired. When a user clicks on that tracking link, it may compel them to engage with the link included. That link, as you might expect, is malicious.

 Any keen observer will notice the sender address is off.

Is Your Address Correct?

We’ve all gotten some variant of this email before, even legitimate ones. A package can’t be delivered. Maybe they couldn’t get access to a building; maybe the address was typed incorrectly.

This attack, which does a fairly good job of spoofing FedEx, claims that FedEx couldn’t deliver your package, because the delivery address was wrong.

In order to remedy this, they want you to fill in some information on an attachment. This attachment is actually fairly common and it is indeed malicious.

The Failed Delivery


There are few things more frustrating than getting a notification that a package couldn’t be delivered. It requires far too much work to get it back on track. But when you have a package that needs to be delivered, you’ll do what it takes. That’s what this phishing scam aims to take advantage of.

 In order to get the package delivered, you have to reschedule the delivery. As you can see, that URL does not lead to the UPS site, but a clear credential harvesting page.

Delivering Malware

By now, you’ve got a sense of the type of Phishmas emails you may expect this holiday season. Shipping errors. Delivery fails. Tracking number mishaps. It’s a veritable smorgasbord.

We haven’t showcased malware just yet, and you should expect that to be lurking under the tree this year. In this email, you’ll see what looks like a typical Phishmas email, with a malicious twist.

In this email, the URL at the bottom links to a downloadable component. The email kindly asks you to download it, and to ignore any warnings that it may be dangerous. That should be the ultimate signal something is off.


This Phishmas, be on the lookout for a tremendous amount of attacks. Hackers want to be the Grinch and steal your holiday cheer. But if you look at an email properly, you can stay safe. Here are some things to pay attention to:

  • Sender Address
  • URL
  • Logic

And if unsure, always check your account on Amazon or FedEx and similar sites by directly typing in the URL into the address bar.

By being a bit more cautious, you can ensure a holly, jolly Christmas for you and your loved ones from such scams.

SMEStreet Edit Desk

SMEStreet Edit Desk is a small group of excited and motivated journalists and editors who are committed to building MSME ecosystem through valuable information and knowledge spread.

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