Cybercriminals Dupe Holiday Shoppers; Here is How to Avoid getting Conned [12 Scams of Christmas]

Written By Sam on 22 November 2010

With holiday shoppers digging various internet sites for the best Christmas deals, McAfee has revealed what it calls the ‘Twelve Scams of Christmas’ – the 12 most dangerous online scams that PC users should be wary of this holiday season. Without further ago, let’s check out what they are:

1) iPad Offer Scams

Apple products are soaring popularity charts this holiday season, and scammers are looking to exploit this trend to announce bogus offers of free iPads. McAfee Labs has apparently found that in the spam version of the scam, consumers are asked to buy other products and to avail of a free iPad provide them with their credit card details.

In the social media version of the scam, users start by taking a quiz to win a free iPad and are subsequently asked to supply their cell phone number to receive the results. Unassuming customers have ended up signing for actually is nothing more than a mobile phone scam that costs $10 a week.

2) ‘Help! I’ve Been Robbed’ Scam

Travelling? Ask your family and friends to be wary of phony distress messages that travel scamsters send requesting that money to be wired or transferred because you have been robbed! McAfee noted that there has been a rise in this scam; and it could get worse the travel season.

3) Fake Gift Cards

Beware of fake gift cards because cybercrooks are using social media to promote these offers to extract consumer information as well as money. A recent Facebook scam, for instance, offered a ‘free $1,000 Best Buy gift card’ to the first 20,000 people who signed up for a Best Buy fan page, which was a look-a-like. To apply for the gift card, they had to provide personal information and take a series of quizzes.

4) Holiday Job Offers

Twitter is also in the scamsters’ radar. Beware of links to ‘high-paying, work-at-home jobs’ that ask for your personal information, like your e-mail address, Social Security number, or residence address.

5) ‘Smishing’

Heard of ‘smishing’? It’s sending phishing SMS texts. Yes, the scamsters are trying to catch you unawares. And one moment of absent-mindedness, one wrong click could land you in trouble. McAfee tells us these texts appear to come from your bank or an online retailer saying that there is something wrong with an account and you have to call a number to verify your account information. In fact, banks these days repeatedly warn customers against falling for such phony text messages.

6) Suspicious Holiday Rentals

During travel times when consumers usually look online for affordable holiday rentals, cybercrooks are seen to often post fake holiday rental sites that ask for down payments on properties by credit card or wire transfer. Only purchase services and goods from trusted sites. Understand that it’s a busy season for the scamsters too. And all they need is a little carelessness on your part to achieve what they have set out to do.

7) Recession Scams Continue

Scammers are also understood to be targeting vulnerable consumers with recession-related scams, such as pay-in-advance credit schemes. McAfee Labs has reported that it has seen a significant number of spam e-mail messages advertising pre-qualified, low-interest loans and credit cards if the recipient pays a processing fee. You should know where that fee is going — directly into the scammer’s pocket.

8) Grinch-like Greetings

E-cards haven’t been spared either. Apprently cybercriminals are taking to loading fake versions with links to computer viruses and other malware. And it can get embarrassing for you as computers may start displaying obscene images, pop-up ads, or even send cards to contacts — and all of them would appear to be sent by you.

9) Low Price Traps

Everyone likes a good bargain. But McAfee has warned shoppers against drooling over products offered at significantly low prices. Cyber scammers apparently use auction and fake websites to offer unbelievable deals aimed at stealing the customer’s money and information.

10) Charity Scams

In mood for charity? Be careful and ensure your generosity does not get inadvertently directed towards the scamsters’ coffers. You may even get fake phone calls or spam e-mail messages requesting you to donate to veterans’ charities, or children’s causes. Relief funds are also a good ploy because a certain tragedy for which you may be donating may not have happened at all; or even if there had been a tragedy, may be you aren’t putting your money in the right place. Make inquiries and do not donate at the spur of the moment if you want to ensure your charity is actually worthwhile.

11) Dangerous Holiday Downloads

As far as possible stay away from holiday-themed screensavers, animations and jingles. These are among the sure-fire ways of spreading viruses and making your computer vulnerable to threats.

12) Hotel and Airport Wi-fi

It is common practice to connect to available Wi-Fi hotspots while travelling. Desist from the lure of free Wi-Fi in public places to avoid identity thefts.

To protect their PCs and personal information, McAfee suggests the following:

  • Stick to well-established/trusted sites that include trust marks (including icons or seals from third parties verifying the site is safe), user reviews and customer support.
  • An established trust mark provider will have a live link attached to its trust mark icon, which will take visitors to a verification Web site of the trust mark provider.
  • Do not respond to offers that arrive in a spam email, text or instant message.
  • Preview a link’s web address before you click on it to make sure it is going to an established site. Never download or click anything from an unknown source.
  • Stay away from vendors that offer prices well below the norm. Don’t believe anything that’s too good to be true.
  • Make sure to use trusted Wi-Fi networks. Don’t check bank accounts or shop online if you’re not sure the network is safe.

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