Most stores are offering online sales to help consumers avoid crowds within small spaces. Sales have started on Amazon.com, Target.com, Best Buy’s website and many other major retailers’ e-commerce platforms.

As you shop, remain alert when it comes to phishing schemes. Phishing is a deliberate attempt to steal sensitive information, including login credentials and/or credit card numbers, by masquerading as someone trustworthy.

QR code scams are also on the rise. QR codes were originally developed by the auto-industry to provide efficient means of accessing large repositories of information. QR codes made inventory tracking easy. Users point at a special square with a phone, and information quickly downloads. Eventually, advertising agencies and others picked up on the utility of this tool.

As smartphones grew increasingly popular, so did the use of these cool codes. However, counterfeit QR codes are now a serious concern.

Phishing: What’s happened so far this year?

Last month, one in every 11,000 shopping related emails was malicious. This month, one in every 826 shopping-related emails comes up as malicious.

Phishing scams enabled hackers to steal nearly 22 billion dollars during the first 10 days of November alone, according to Check Point Software security research experts. Hackers are “…using some of those less sensational but very frequent terms, like “cheap” and “sale” and “percentage off” and “special offers” to attract folks that click on…unsolicited emails,” says expert Mark Ostrowski.

QR code scams: Beware of the square

QR codes can enable consumers to easily scan and browse restaurant menus or to make contactless payments. But hackers have taken to replacing real QR codes with phony look-a-likes that can download malicious software onto phones.

Earlier this year, federal police in Belgium issued a warning about these types of fraudulent activities. Last year, hackers running malicious QR code scams stole roughly 90 million yuan ($18.5 million) in QR code scams.

“QR codes are not inherently secure or trustworthy, and hackers know that a majority of people have little or no security on their phones at all, so we strongly advise everyone to use a mobile security solution to protect their devices and data against phishing, malicious apps and malware,” said a cyber security spokesperson for Check Point Software.

As you enjoy takeout meals or make purchases, beware of the square. Most phones lack the security to protect against QR code scams.

For more on holiday phishing and QR code scams, visit NBC and bizcommunity.com.