Thursday, November 18, 2010

Twelve Scams of Christmas to Watch Out for:McAfee

The festive season is just around the corner and planning holidays and shopping online seems to be everyone's mind. However, what Internet users should not forget is that this is a happy season for hackers too. Internet security firm McAfee has listed Twelve Scams of Christmas Internet users should watch out for this holiday season. 

1) iPad Offer Scams

It is obvious that hackers would use bogus offers for free Apple iPads this year. With the new wonder tablet by Apple hogging so much attention and being on the wish list of many, it does not come as a surprise that it is being used as a bait to encourage consumers to reveal their credit card number and cell phone numbers online. Of course, victims never receive the iPad or the any other items, just the headache of reporting a stolen credit card number or being a part of a cell phone scam.

2) Help! I've Been Robbed Scam

What would you do if you were contacted by a close friend of family member online while they are on a vacation saying that they have been robbed and need money urgently? Most people would wire money instantly. According to McAfee, this travel scam sends phony distress messages to family and friends requesting that money be wired or transferred so that they can get home. McAfee Labs has seen an increase in this scam and predicts its rise during the busy travel season.

3) Fake Gift Cards

Holiday season and gift cards. Need I say more? It is common that during festive seasons like Christmas, Cybercrooks use social media to promote fake gift card offers with the goal of stealing consumers information and money, which is then sold to marketers or used for ID theft. So, beware.

4) Holiday Job Offers

It is a simple rule that more money means a more luxurious holiday or celebration. Where will the money come from? Maybe a vacation job. Scams on micro blogging sites like Twitter offer unsafe links to high-paying, work-at-home jobs that ask for your personal information, such as your email address, home address and Social Security number to apply for the fake job. So, do not fall for that too-good-to-be true job offer on the Internet. 

5) Smishing 

McAfee says cybercrooks are now smishing, or sending phishing SMS texts. 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 reality, these efforts are merely a ruse to extract valuable personal information from the targets. Cybercrooks know that people are more vulnerable to this scam during the holiday season when consumers are doing more online shopping and checking bank balances frequently.

6) Suspicious Holiday Rentals

Just like job offers, if rental offers look out-of-this-world, be cautious. During peak travel times when consumers often look online for affordable holiday rentals, cybercrooks post fake holiday rental sites that ask for down payments on properties by credit card or wire transfer. So, book only via reliable sources.

7) Recession Scams Continue

The recent economic recession hit many and so it is only normal for people to fall prey to recession related scams such as pay-in-advance credit schemes. McAfee Labs has seen a significant number of spam emails advertising pre-qualified, low-interest loans and credit cards if the recipient pays a processing fee, which goes directly into the scammer's pocket.

8) Grinch-like Greetings

E-cards are a convenient and earth-friendly way to send greetings to friends and family, but cybercriminals load fake versions with links to computer viruses and other malware instead of cheer. According to McAfee Labs, computers may start displaying obscene images, pop-up ads, or even start sending cards to contacts that appear to come from you. So think twice before sending that cute-looking Santa Clause to your friend across the globe.

9) Low Price Traps

McAfee warns that shoppers should be cautious of products offered at prices far below competitors. Cyber scammers use auction sites and fake websites to offer too-good-to-be-true deals with the goal of stealing your money and information. So all you shopaholics out there, think twice before investing that branded bag which that site is selling for 50 percent less. 

10) Charity Scams

Having a good heart will not save you from Internet scams this holiday season. Common ploys include phone calls and spam e-mails asking you to donate to veterans charities, children's causes and relief funds for the latest catastrophe. So, make necessary inquiries before donating money online. 

11) Dangerous Holiday Downloads

According to MaAfee, holiday-themed screensavers, jingles and animations are an easy way for scammers to spread viruses and other computer threats especially when links come from an email or IM that appears to be from a friend.

12) Hotel and Airport Wi-fi

Think you got a good deal regarding your holiday hotel due to the free Wi-Fi they are offering? It might not be as good as it seems as this is a tempting time for thieves to hack into Wi-Fi networks hoping to find opportunities for theft.