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'Tis the season for online scams. Here are 12 of the most dangerous scams you're likely to see this holiday season.
The holiday shopping season is in full swing and so is the season for online scams. According to 2012 Holiday Shopping Study by McAfee and Harris Interactive, 70 percent of Americans will shop online this holiday season and 24 percent of Americans will shop online with a mobile device. That's a target that has cyber criminals salivating. Here are 12 of the most dangerous scams you're likely to see this holiday season, according to McAfee.
Social Media Scams
On the first day of Christmas, cyber scrooge gave to me social media scams. People are often off-guard when it comes to social media networks like Facebook and Twitter because they're surrounded by "friends." But your friends' accounts could be hacked and sending out fake alerts. Be careful when you click or like posts, enter raffle contests or install apps to receive discounts. Beware fan page deals that you get from your friends that advertise the hottest holiday gifts or Twitter ads and special discounts that use shortened links that could be malicious.
Malicious Mobile Apps
On the second day of Christmas, cyber scrooge gave to me malicious mobile apps. Smartphone and tablet owners love their apps—they've downloaded more than 25 billion apps for Android devices alone. But they're not all safe. You could be downloading a malicious app designed to steal your information or send out premium-rate text messages. Get some information about the developer before you download.
On the third day of Christmas, cyber scrooge gave to me travel scams. If you find travel deals online that seem too good to be true, there's a good chance they are. Scammers build phony travel pages with beautiful pictures and bargain basement prices, all in an effort to get you to hand over your financial details.
On the fourth day of Christmas, cyber scrooge gave to me holiday spam and phishing. Spammers and criminals engaging in phishing seek to tailor their messages to make you more likely to click. Expect to see ads for cheap Rolexes or pharmaceuticals that proclaim them the "perfect gift." The real gift is likely malware, a stolen identity, theft or all three.
Hot Holiday Gift Scams
On the fifth day of Christmas, cyber scrooge gave to me hot holiday gift scams. Certain items, like the iPhone 5 or iPad Mini, generate all sorts of buzz as the hot gift during the holiday season. Expect to see these must-have gifts mentioned in dangerous links, phony contests ("click HERE for a free iPad!") and phishing emails. Think twice before you click on a dubious link or reveal personal information.
Skype Message Scare
On the sixth day of Christmas, cyber scrooge gave to me Skype message scams. Lots of people now use Skype to connect with their loved ones during the holiday season, and that makes it an attractive target for criminals. Beware emails about "Skype toolbar for Outlook" or purporting to come from "Skype Security Center." They're seeking to install spyware or other malware to listen to your calls for personal information or even hold your files for ransom.
Bogus Gift Cards
On the seventh day of Christmas, cyber scrooge gave to me bogus gift cards. Be careful when buying gift cards online from third-parties because they may well turn out to be fraudulent. Research the seller before buying. When in doubt buy gift cards directly from the source.
On the eighth day of Christmas, cyber scrooge gave to me holiday SMiSishing. That's a mouthful. It's phishing via text message in which the scammer tries to lure you into revealing information or performing an action you normally wouldn't do by pretending to be a legitimate organization. Think twice if that text message is not from a friend or an organization you've explicitly given permission to text you.
On the ninth day of Christmas, cyber scrooge gave me phony ecommerce sites. These sites try to lure you into sharing your credit card number and other personal details by promoting great deals. Of course, you'll never receive the merchandise and your information will be stolen. As a bare minimum, if you visit an ecommerce site, make sure the browser address bar lights up green (indicating that it's been strictly validated with an Extended Validation Certificate) and look for a trust seal near the bottom of the page.
On the 10th day of Christmas, cyber scrooge gave to me fake charities. Every year people give generously to charity during the holidays, and cyber criminals want a piece of that action. One of the biggest scams every holiday season involves spam advertising fake charities in which the money goes directly to the crooks. Do some research on your charity of choice before you give.
On the 11th day of Christmas, cyber scrooge gave to me dangerous eCards. Criminals love eCards as a way of delivering spyware or viruses that download the moment you click on the link to view the greeting. Don't click these links unless you recognize the sender. Even then, it probably couldn't hurt to check whether the eCard provider is legitimate before clicking the link.
Phony Online Classifieds
On the 12th day of Christmas, cyber scrooge gave to me phony online classifieds. Many people turn to online classifieds as a way to find holiday gifts or part-time jobs to pay for them. But beware of offers that ask for too much personal information or ask you to wire funds via Western Union. These are most likely scams and frequently illegal. Fake work-from-home jobs that involve wiring money are one of the primary ways that cyber criminals launder their ill-gotten gains. And it could stick you with jail time to boot.