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The 12 Scams Of Christmas

by fatweb


Ian Knott has been commentating on various forms of technology for the last 16 years. He’s had columns on gadgets, gaming, computing and digital entertainment in many newspapers, magazines and websites in New Zealand and overseas.

It’s that time of year again, that time when the credit cards are taking a hammering and the whole world is looking for a bargain. They don’t call it the ‘Silly Season” for nothing, and it’s a time when many normally sensible folk will let their guard down on the off chance of making that dollar go a lot further.

For that very reason, cyberscammers are out in force and have armed themselves with an arsenal of tools to catch the more vulnerable and unaware consumer in their search for that elusive bargain.

Antivirus company McAfee has released its ’12 Scams of Christmas’ list and it gives us a glimpse at the many electronic pitfalls that are around every corner.

McAfee’s 12 Scams of Christmas

1. Mobile Malware: Malware targeted at mobile devices is on the rise, and Android smartphones are most at risk. McAfee cites a 76 percent increase in Android malware in the second quarter of 2011 over the first. New malware has recently been found that targets QR codes, a digital barcode that consumers can scan with their smartphone to find good deals.

2. Malicious Mobile Applications: These are mobile apps designed to steal information from smartphones or send out expensive text messages without a user’s consent. Dangerous apps are usually offered for free and masquerade as fun applications, such as games.

3. Phony Facebook Promotions and Contests: Who doesn’t want to win free prizes or get a great deal around the holidays? Unfortunately, cyberscammers know that these are attractive lures and target Facebook with phony promotions and contests aimed at gathering personal information.

4. Scareware: Scareware is the fake antivirus software that tricks someone into believing that their computer is at risk — or already infected — so they agree to download and pay for phony software. An estimated one million victims fall for this scam each day.

5. Holiday Screensavers: Bringing holiday cheer to your home or work PC sounds like a fun idea to get into the holiday spirit, but be careful. Holiday-themed screensavers, ringtones and e-cards have been known to be malicious. Perform a security scan on the file before installing or sending the file.

6. Mac Malware: Until recently, Mac users felt pretty insulated from online security threats. But with the growing popularity of Apple products, cybercriminals have designed a new wave of malware directed at Mac users. There are well over 5000 pieces of malware targeting Macs, and this number is increasing by 10 percent month on month.

7. Holiday Phishing Scams: Phishing is the act of using phony email or social media posts to trick consumers into revealing information or performing actions they wouldn’t normally do online. Cyberscammers know that most people are busy around the holidays so they tailor their messages with holiday themes in the hopes of tricking recipients into revealing personal information.

8. Online Coupon Scams: An estimated 63 percent of shoppers search for online coupons or deals when they purchase something on the Internet. But watch out, because the scammers know that by offering an irresistible online coupon, they can get people to hand over some of their personal information.

9. Mystery Shopper Scams: Mystery shoppers are people who are hired to shop in a store and report back on the customer service. There have been reports of scammers sending text messages to victims, offering to pay them $50 an hour to be a mystery shopper and instructing them to call if they are interested. Once the victim calls, they are asked for their personal information.

10. Hotel “Wrong Transaction” Malware Emails: Many people travel over the holidays, so it is no surprise that scammers have designed travel-related scams in the hopes of getting us to click on dangerous emails.

11. “It” Gift Scams: Every year there are hot holiday gifts that sell out early. When a gift is popular scammers will also start advertising these gifts on rogue websites and social networks. Consumers could wind up paying for an item and giving away credit card details only to receive nothing in return.

12. “I’m away from home” Scammers: Posting information about a holiday on social networking sites could potentially be dangerous. Someone connected with that poster on Facebook or other social networking sites could see their post and decide that it may be a good time to rob them. Furthermore, a quick online search can easily find their home address.

It makes for worrying reading, but if you recite the mantra “if it’s too good to be true then it probably isn’t” and follow sensible email and internet protocol, then you’re likely to get through the holiday season relatively unscathed.

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