The 12 scams of Christmas

The 12 scams of Christmas

Great article by Inside Retailing Online on December 01, 2010, some very important reminders to share with everyone. I known someone recently affected by smishing and it is very stressful for them, never knowing what the scammers will do next with all the information they have been given.

Here they are: the 12 most dangerous online scams that Australian  consumers should be aware of in the lead up to Christmas.

Virus protection specialist McAfee warns Australia is seeing a rise in  the number of scams resulting in consumer personal information being  stolen or suffering substantial financial losses. During 2009, losses  through scams reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer  Commission (ACCC) totalled almost $70 million.

“Christmas is the best time to get bargain deals online but we can also  easily get scammed through fake offers,” said Moira Cronin, McAfee  Australia Cybermum. “I would urge consumers to spend their money and  time wisely to ensure they don’t become victims online.”

Twelve Scams of Christmas

1) iPad Offer Scams

With Apple products topping most shopping lists this holiday season,  scammers are busy distributing bogus offers for free iPads. McAfee Labs  found that in the spam version of the scam consumers are asked to  purchase other products and provide their credit card number to get the  free iPad. Of course, victims never receive the iPad or the other items,  just the headache of reporting a stolen credit card number.

In the social media version of the scam, users take a quiz to win a free  iPad and must supply their mobile number to receive the results. In  actuality they are signed up for a scam that costs $10 a week.

2) “Help! I’ve Been Robbed” Scam

This travel scam sends fraudulent 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, especially if the Australian dollar  maintains its strength,

3) Fake Gift Cards

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.

One recent Myer scam offered a “free $500 Myer gift card” which was  suspected to contain a link to a virus that would steal bank account  information. To apply for the gift card, people had to provide personal  information.

4) Holiday Job Offers

As people seek extra cash for gifts this holiday season, Twitter scams  offer dangerous links to high-paying, work-at-home jobs that ask for  your personal information, such as your email and home address to apply  for the fake job.

5) “Smishing”

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

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 bank transfer.

7) GFC Scams Continue

Scammers target vulnerable consumers with GFC-related scams such as  pay-in-advance credit schemes. McAfee Labs has seen a significant number  of spam emails advertising prequalified, 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 instead of Christmas cheer, cybercriminals load  fake versions with links to
computer viruses and other
malware.  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.

9) Low Price Traps

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.

10) Charity Scams

The holidays have historically been a prime time for charity scams since  it’s a traditional time for giving, and McAfee Labs predicts that this  year is no exception. 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.

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 people travel and use free wi-fi in places like  hotels and airports. This is a tempting time for thieves to hack into  networks hoping to find opportunities for theft.

McAfee advises Internet users to follow these five tips to protect their  computers and personal information:

  1. Stick to well-established and trusted sites that include trust marks  (icons or seals from third parties verifying that the site is safe),  user reviews and customer support. A reputable 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.

  2. Do not respond to offers that arrive in a spam email, text or instant  message.

  3. 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.

  4. Stay away from vendors that offer prices well below the norm. Don’t  believe anything that’s too good to be true.

  5. 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.

by Inside Retailing Online on December 01, 2010

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