I have a surefire way to gauge the state of the economy: Count how many holiday cards I receive in my office mailbox.

Two years ago, plenty. Last year, a whole lot. This year, not so much.

Most of the cards I receive here at the offices of Haymarket Media in New York come from PR agencies with whom I deal on pretty much a daily basis. This year, a majority are opting to send their warm wishes (A.K.A. – keep writing stories about our clients) to my inbox.

It’s gotta be the economy. Why shell out 42 cents (and the cost of paper) to send a letter when you can do it for free over the internet?

But with all this Christmas goodwill comes a real risk: Some of these e-greeting cards are actually fakes, containing an embedded trojan or a link to a malicious site.

Now, that’s not to say the rogue cards are coming from my PR contacts (although I was kind of – shall we say? – short with a few of them over the course of the year).

But there are lots of others out there looking to take advantage of our instinct to open a card. This is a threat worth paying attention to. And, as email security firm Commtouch will tell you, these socially engineered cards are becoming more and more real looking.

Kind of makes me yearn for the good ‘ole days of greeting cards I could touch. But then, there’s that whole recycling thing to worry about.