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Scams of Christmas

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An IT security company released findings from its 2012 Online and Mobile Christmas Shopping Study. The study of 2116 British adults by Harris Interactive, suggests that shopping online and via mobile devices is on the rise. In light of these findings, McAfee also lists the Top 12 Scams of Christmas that criminals plan to use to rip off consumers as they shop online this holiday season.

While Brits have become accustomed to shopping online, and will do so in droves, they are also using their mobile phones for more of their everyday activities. Some 78pc of those surveyed plan to shop online for festive treats and gifts, with one in three (35pc) planning to use their mobile devices, smartphone (24pc) or tablet (16pc).

Despite the fact that 82pc of smartphone or tablet owners surveyed are at least somewhat concerned that their personal information could be stolen while using an app on a smartphone or tablet, more than eight in ten (84pc) of them are willing to provide some level of personal information in order to receive an offer that is of value to them.

Roughly six in ten (59pc) of those British adults planning to use smartphones or tablets for 2012 holiday shopping indicate that they expect to use apps for shopping or banking during that time; as such, mobile devices have become irresistible to cybercriminals, and now they are targeting mobile users through malicious applications. With three in ten British smartphone and/or tablet owners admitting they do not pay attention at all to app terms and conditions and 34pc paying attention only sometimes, Cyber-Scrooge criminals are ready to pounce.

Here are the “12 Scams of Christmas,” the online scams to watch for this holiday season.

1) Social media scams—Many of us use social media sites to connect with family, friends, and colleagues over the holidays, and the cyber-criminals know that this is a good place to catch you off guard because we’re all “friends,” right? Here are some ways that criminals will use these channels to obtain shopper’s present money, identity or other personal information:
· Scammers use channels like Facebook and Twitter just like email and websites to scam consumers during the holidays. Be careful when clicking or liking posts, while taking advantage of contests, ads and special deals that you get from your “friends” that advertise the hottest Holiday gifts (such as the new iPad Mini), exclusive discounts at cool shops, holiday-related job postings, and your friends’ accounts being hacked and sending out fake alerts to all their “friends.”
· Twitter ads and special discounts for popular gifts are especially huge the week of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and use blind, shortened links, many of which could easily be malicious. Criminals are getting savvier with authentic-looking social ads and deals that take consumers to legitimate looking websites. In order to take advantage of the deals or contests, they ask them for personal information that can obtain a shopper’s credit card number, email address, phone number or home address.

1) Malicious Mobile Apps—As smartphone users we are app crazy. In fact, Android recently passed the milestone of 25 billion apps downloaded! But as the popularity of applications has grown, so have the chances that you could download a malicious application, for example a festive screensaver or Santa-themed game, designed to steal your information or even send out premium-rate text messages without your knowledge.

2) Holiday Travel Scams—Before you book your flight or train to head home to see your loved ones for the holidays, keep in mind that the scammers are looking to hook you with too-good-to-be-true deals. Phony travel websites, sometimes using your preferred company, with rock-bottom prices are used to get you to hand over your financial details.

3) Yuletide Spam/Phishing—Many of these spam emails will take on a Christmas theme. Cheap Rolex watches and pharmaceuticals may be advertised as the “perfect gift” for that special someone.

4) iPhone 5, iPad Mini and other hot Xmas present scams—The kind of excitement and buzz surrounding Apple’s new iPhone 5 or iPad Mini is just what cybercrooks dream of when they plot their scams. They will mention must-have holiday gifts in dangerous links, phony contests (example: “Free iPad”) and phishing emails as a way to grab computer users’ attention to get you to reveal personal information or click on a dangerous link that could download malware onto your machine.

5) Skype Message Scare—People around the world will use Skype to connect with friends and family over the festive period, but they should be aware of a new Skype message scam that attempts to infect their machine, and even hold their files to ransom.

6) Bogus gift cards—Cybercriminals can’t help but want to get in on the action by offering bogus gift cards online. Be wary of buying gift cards from third parties; just imagine how embarrassing it would be to find out that the gift card you gave your mother-in-law was fraudulent!

7) Christmas SMiShing—“SMiSishing” is phishing via text message. Just like with email phishing, the scammer tries to lure you into revealing information or performing an action you normally wouldn’t do by pretending to be a legitimate organisation.

8) Phony E-tailers– Phoney e-commerce sites, that appear real, try to lure you into typing in your credit card number and other personal details, often by promoting great deals. But after obtaining your money and information, you never receive the merchandise and your personal information is put at risk.

9) Fake Charities—This is one of the biggest scams every Christmas. As we open up our hearts and wallets, the bad guys hope to get in on the giving by sending spam emails advertising fake charities.

10) Suspicious Season’s Greetings—E-Cards are a popular way to send a quick “thank you” or season’s greetings, but some are malicious and may contain spyware or viruses that download onto your computer once you click on the link to view the greeting.

11) Phony Festive Classifieds—Online classified sites may be a great place to look for festive gifts and holiday jobs, but beware of phony offers that ask for too much personal information or ask you to wire funds via Western Union, since these are likely to be scams.

According to a global study commissioned by MSI International and McAfee, UK consumers place an average value of £34,250 on the “digital assets” they own across multiple digital devices.

What they say

Paula Greve, director at McAfee Labs, said: “Using multiple devices provides the bad guys with more ways to access your valuable “Digital Assets,” such as personal information and files, especially if the devices are under-protected. One of the best ways for consumers to protect themselves is to learn about the criminals’ tricks, so they can avoid them. Beyond that they should have the latest updates of the applications on their devices in order to enjoy a safe online buying experience. We don’t want consumers to be haunted by the scams of holidays past, present and future – they can’t afford to leave the door open to cyber-grinches during the busy holiday season.”

“For the millions of consumers who plan to go online this holiday season to shop for the best deals, finalise travel plans and update their social channels, it’s important that they enjoy those activities safely by checking their security protection on their computers and mobile devices first,” said Gary Davis, vice president of McAfee global consumer marketing. “To keep their personal and financial information secure, it’s also important to be wary of offers that are too good to be true, not click on links or open attachments from people they don’t know or companies’ emails or sites that look suspect, and go directly to websites by typing their name in web address bar.”


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