Plan on doing Christmas shopping online to avoid crowds and congested roads? Be very careful to avoid falling victim to cyber crooks taking advantage of the holidays.
McAfee has revealed the 12 most dangerous online scams consumers should be aware of this upcoming holiday season, ranging from iPad offer scams to fake gift cards and holiday downloads.
“Scams continue to be big business for cyber criminals who have their sights set on capitalizing on open hearts and wallets this holiday season,“ said Dave Marcus, director of security research for McAfee Labs. “As people jump online to look for deals on gifts and travel, it's important to recognize common scams to safeguard against theft during the busy season ahead.“
Twelve Scams of Christmas:
1. iPad Offer Scams
With Apple products topping many shopping lists this holiday season, scammers are busy sending bogus offers for free iPads. McAfee Labs found that in the spam version of the scam, consumers are asked to buy other products and provide their credit-card number to get the free gadget. Victims never receive anything but the headache of reporting a stolen credit-card number.
2. “Help! I've Been Robbed“ Scam
This travel-themed scam sends bogus distress messages to family and friends requesting money be wired or transferred so they can get home. According to McAfee Labs, this scan this scam will increase during the busy travel season.
3. Fake Gift Cards
Social media sites are used to promote fake gift card offers with the goal of stealing consumers' information, which is then sold to marketers or used for identity theft. One recent Facebook scam offered a “free $1,000 Best Buy gift card“ to the first 20,000 who signed up for a Best Buy fan page, which was a spoofed website. To apply for the gift card, consumers had to provide personal information and take quizzes.
4. Holiday Job Offers
With the extra spending that comes with the holidays, more people are seeking opportunities to make some extra money. Twitter scams offer dangerous links to high-paying, work-at-home jobs asking for personal information, such as email and home address, and Social Security numbers to apply for the fake job.
Cyber crooks are now sending phishing text messages, also known as smishing. These texts appear to come from a consumer’s bank or an online retailer, saying there is a problem with the account. To resolve the issue, the user must call a number to verify his or her account information. In reality, these efforts are just another way for cyber scammers to extract valuable personal information.
6. Suspicious Holiday Rentals
During high-volume travel times, consumers often look online for affordable holiday rentals. To cash in on that opportunity, cyber crooks post fake holiday rental sites that ask for down payments on properties by credit card or wire transfer.
7. Recession Scams Continue
Scammers exploit vulnerable consumers with recession-related scams, such as pay-in-advance credit schemes. McAfee Labs has uncovered spam 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, environmentally-friendly way to send greetings to loved ones, but cyber criminals create fake versions with links to viruses and other malware. According to McAfee Labs, computers may start displaying obscene images, pop-ups or even start sending cards to contacts.
9. Low-Price Traps
If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. Shoppers should be cautious of products priced much lower than compared to their competitors. Cyber scammers use auction sites and fake websites to offer incredible-sounding deals with the goal of stealing consumer’s money and information.
10. Charity Scams
The holidays have historically been a prime time for charity scams as it is a traditional time for giving, and McAfee Labs predicts that this year will be no exception. Common schemes include phone calls and spam asking users to donate to veterans' charities, children’s causes and relief funds for the latest catastrophe.
11. Dangerous Holiday Downloads
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
During the holidays, many travel and use free Wi-Fi in places like hotels and airports. This is a tempting time for thieves to break into networks, hoping to find opportunities for theft.