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No matter how convincing a text or email seems,

don't fall for requests to buy gift cards! 

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"We're planning on giving employees gift cards this year. I need your help right away. Please visit the Apple Store and purchase five $250.00 gift cards.

"I'll pay you back immediately. Once you have the cards in hand, scratch off the coating on the back of each card and text me the numbers you see.

"I really appreciate your help. Keep this a secret, as we want it to be a surprise."

— (Name of manager you may or may not be familiar with.)

Above is a text message to a victim from a relative whose text messaging has been hacked. The background photo is of Apple gift cards actually purchased by a victim. (From WMTV Madison, Wisconsin.)

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This is the prime time of the year for gift card scams. Fraudsters email or text their victims, asking them to purchase gift cards. Victims are then instructed to send back redemption code numbers off the cards. Since gift cards are as good as cash, once a scammer cashes them in, there is nothing the victim can do to get their money back. 

Below is an email requesting an employee purchase gift cards to surprise other employees. Click and drag the red slider back and forth to see the clues that it's a scam.

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Nearly 500 million WhatsApp users’ phone numbers have been stolen and posted for sale on the dark web. As a result, CSO Online says users worldwide should be wary of messages that appear to come from friends asking for money or personal information.


By the end of this month, Apple will add new security protections to its iCloud backup service, further protecting photos, videos, and other data for millions of iPhone and Mac users. Users won't have to take any steps for the privacy enhancement to take effect. But the Wall Street Journal says law enforcement is concerned because the new technology will prevent authorities from accessing information stored in iCloud accounts about cyberattacks, child and drug trafficking, and terrorism.  


So far this holiday, we’ve seen two shopping trends: nearly half of online purchases are being made on phones, up significantly from last year. And Adobe Analytics says consumers are using “buy now, pay later” offers that appear at checkout 76% more often than last year. That, in turn, has led to consumers buying an average of 10% more each time they use the payment plan.

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Unfortunately, it's too good to be true. You will not get a free Dutch oven for answering a question, providing your address, and paying a small shipping fee. This scam is designed to collect your credit card information. 

ZDNet says what's unusual with this phish is that scammers have found ways to get around email filters designed to block this type of email. Similar phishing emails use Best Buy and Dick's Sporting Goods as lures. 

Recent editions of Aware Force Cybersecurity News from Xtreme Solutions

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We view Aware Force from Xtreme Solutions as an extension of our commitment to keeping our clients informed and empowered.


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Hervia Ingram

Xtreme Solutions

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Do I need to use antivirus?

How can I cut down on spam?

What can I do to be safer online?

I think I've been scammed on Facebook.

Do I need to use a VPN at home to be safe?

Should I be using a password manager?

What should I know about my web browser?

What should I do if I think I've been hacked?

All year, readers of this newsletter have sent in hundreds of cybersecurity questions. Here are the most common topics of 2022, along with the answers we gave most often.



  • If an urgent email or text message increases your blood pressure, that’s your clue that it might be fake. Slow down and be suspicious, especially if it appears to be genuine.


  • Never click on a link and provide your username or password when an email requests it. Instead, type the website’s address into your browser or use the address you have bookmarked on your computer.


  • If you think you’ve been hacked, immediately visit the website or app, and change your password.


  • Consider subscribing to a password manager and installing it on your personal computer, phone, and tablet — instead of trying to create and manage passwords on your own.


  • A “VPN” can add a layer of cyber protection to your home Wi-Fi network and personal computer. Do a web search to shop for a reputable brand.


  • Be suspicious of a Facebook (or any social media platform’s) message about payments you’re not expecting or that change the terms of a purchase or sale you’ve made.


  • Clicking “unsubscribe” works on emails from legitimate organizations. But scammers use unsubscribe links to verify that someone is reading their emails, so they send more.


  • Antivirus apps add a layer of cyber protection to your personal computer, phone, and tablet. Do a web search to shop for a reputable brand.

Cyber cartoon © 2022 Marketoonist | Original content © 2022 Aware Force

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