Beware… The 12 Christmas Online Scams

by News Editor on December 3rd, 2012 in Industry and Security News.

As the holiday shopping season approaches, cybercriminals are readying their scam list and checking it twice. And this year, no platform is off limits.

Cybercriminals save their best schemes for the holidays, they say, dressing online scams to steal personal information and money in festive, seasonal wrapping. There are likely to be more online scam victims during those busy shopping and travelling December days than at any other time during the year.

According to new study conducted by Harris Interactive and McAfee, about 70% of U.S. consumers plan to shop online during the holidays and one in four will shop on a mobile device. This presents a huge opportunity for cybercriminals to lure unsuspecting victims.


McAfee has put together a list detailing the 12 Christmas online scams that will be most prevalent this holiday season.


1.    Social media scams

Cybercriminals know social media networks are a good place to catch you off guard because we’re all “friends,” right? 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 raffle contests, and fan page deals that you get from your “friends” that advertise the hottest Holiday gifts, installing apps to receive discounts, and your friends’ accounts being hacked and sending out fake alerts. Twitter ads and special discounts utilize blind, shortened links, many of which could easily be malicious.


2.    Malicious Mobile Apps

As smartphone users we are app crazy, downloading over 25 billion apps for Android devices alone! But as the popularity of applications has grown, so have the chances that you could download a malicious application designed to steal your information or even send out premium-rate text messages without your knowledge.


3.    Travel Scams

Before you book your flight or hotel 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 webpages, sometimes using your preferred company, with beautiful pictures and rock-bottom prices are used to get you to hand over your financial details.


4.    Holiday Spam/Phishing

Soon many of these spam emails will take on holiday themes. Cheap Rolex watches and pharmaceuticals may be advertised as the “perfect gift” for that special someone.


5.    iPhone 5, iPad Mini and other hot holiday gift 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.


6.    Skype Message Scare

People around the world will use Skype to connect with loved ones this holiday season, but they should be aware of a new Skype message scam that attempts to infect their machine, and even hold their files for ransom.


7.    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!


8.    Holiday 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 organization.


9.    Phony E-tailers

Phony 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.


10.    Fake charities

This is one of the biggest scams of every holiday season. 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.


11.    Dangerous e-cards

E-Cards are a popular way to send a quick “thank you” or holiday greeting, 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.


12.    Phony classifieds

Online classified sites may be a great place to look for holiday gifts and part-time 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 most likely scams.