We’re about to enter the holiday shopping season headlong, and while vigilance is always important when you’re shopping online, scams and such always seem to get worse during the colder months of the year.
As a helpful reminder, our friends at McAfee put together this handy guide to the 12 most common online scams to which the unsuspecting fall prey to at this time of year. Their list follows, with some commentary…
Scam I: Charity Phishing Scams – Be Careful Who You Give To
Many an email purports to come from a legit charity but actually links to a fake web site designed to steal donations, credit card information, and the identities of donors.
Scam II: Fake Invoices from Delivery Services to Steal Your Money
During the holidays, cybercriminals often send fake invoices and delivery notifications appearing to be from Federal Express or UPS. Again, your information is stolen or malware is automatically installed on their computer when the “invoice” is opened.
Scam III: Social Networking – A Cybercriminal “Wants to be Your Friend”
Cybercriminals take advantage of this social time of the year by sending authentic-looking “New Friend Request” e-mails from social networking sites. These links actually install malware on your PC, often stealing your social network password along the way.
Scam IV: The Dangers of Holiday E-Cards
Many e-cards forwarded around during the holidays harbor all manner of malware.
Scam V: “Luxury” Holiday Jewelry Comes at a High Price
Sorry, that Gucci bag on deep discount isn’t real. Order it and you receive nothing.
Scam VI: Practice Safe Holiday Shopping – Online Identity Theft on the Rise
It might be overkill, but McAfee tells users never to shop online from a public computer or on an open Wi-Fi network because you never know who’s snooping.
Scam VII: Christmas Carol Lyrics Can Be Dangerous – Risky Holiday Searches
Can you believe that websites with lyrics for Christmas carols, as well as wallpaper and ringtones, can be festooned with malware?
Scam VIII: Out of Work – Job-Related E-mail Scams
With unemployment at record highs, expect work-at-home scams to be more common than ever right about now, along with the promise of jobs that simply don’t exist… but which will happily take a “setup” fee to give you more information about them.
Scam IX: Outbidding for Crime – Auction Site Fraud
More deals too good to be true; auctions are always risky propositions.
Scam X: Password Stealing Scams
Once a crook hacks a single user account using off-the-shelf software, it’s usually a simple matter to break down other accounts either because they have the same password or are linked to provide a new password via a recovery system.
Scam XI: E-Mail Banking Scams
Standard phishing attacks often in the guise of a warning that you’ll be locked out of the account if you don’t comply with some bogus instructions.
Scam XII: Your Files for Ransom – Ransomware Scams
A new scareware tactic encrypts your files and holds them ransom until you pay up to have them decrypted.
Protect yourself by keeping security software up to date and using common sense: Don’t open attachments promising holiday cheer, even those sent by friends (they may have been infected without even knowing it), and don’t click on or shop from strange web links.