12 Online Scams: How to avoid unwrapping an online threat (Part 1)

Scam word cloud

After one unsuccessful foray to a local toy store, I ordered a half a dozen dinosaur-themed gifts for my 2/12 year old dino-obsessed granddaughter online from Amazon. Everything arrived the next day and shipping was free. This morning, several weeks later, I opened an email from Amazon advertising three dinosaur story books.

I have every reason to believe that Amazon is a credible vendor that does not use data collected from customers for nefarious purposes. But in a recent press release computer security company McAfee reminds us that, “Cyber scrooges leverage all types of digital devices, social media platforms and mobile apps to take advantage of consumers’ distraction during this festive, busy time of year.”

Whether you are a luddite or a cyber genius, you could become the victim of a cyber scam. To help educate and protect consumers and businesses this holiday season, McAfee has identified this year’s top “12 Scams of the Holidays”:

  1.  You’ve Got Mail: As holiday sales continue to migrate online, the risk for shipping notification and phishing scams are increasing. Though malware is a year-round risk, since many people do their holiday shopping online, you may be more likely to click on a shipping notification or phishing e-mail because they think it is legit.
  2. Deceptive Advertising: Keep your eyes peeled (and your wallet in check) when online shopping for this season’s most coveted products. Dangerous links, phony contests on social media, and bogus gift cards are just some of the ways scammers try to steal your personal information and ruin your holiday cheer..
  3. Charitable donations: ‘Tis the season for giving. Be wary of fake charities that contact you via email, or are shared virally through social media.
  4. Caveat emptor: Point of sale malware leads to exposing credit card information. Make sure you check your credit card statements vigilantly and stay on top of breaking news to be aware and prepared.
  5. .iScams: New mobile apps for Android and iOS devices are added every day. Thanks to the ongoing advancement of technology, your mobile device can control the temperature in your house, keep you connected to social media and add cool filters to your holiday photos. Even the most official-looking or festive apps could be malicious and access your personal information.
  6. Getting Carded: Digital e-cards are fun and easy. While you may want to send a loved one “Season’s Greetings,” hackers are looking to wish you a “Merry Malware!” Well-known e-card sites are safe, but be wary of potential scams that cause you to download malware onto your device.
  7. Holiday Travel Scams: With travel on the rise during peak holiday times, online scammers are ready to take advantage of the fact that consumers often become less vigilant about their safety. Fake online travel deal links are bountiful, but there are also risks that exist once you arrive at your destination including spyware that can access your information through logging onto infected PCs onsite.
  8. .Bank Robocall Scam: When holiday spending increases and you are aware of the abuse to their bank accounts and credit cards. You may receive a fake phone call an automated (or not) “security agent” stating that your account has been compromised and requesting personal information including the account password, to make changes.
  9. ATM Skimming: During the holiday season, you need cash and are usually in a rush to get it. Criminals can access your information at ATMs by installing skimming devices to steal the data off your card’s magnetic strip and either using a video camera or keypad overlay to capture your PIN. A simple solution:  look carefully at your ATM for anything suspicious and cover the keypad when entering your PIN.
  10. .Year in Review Traps: Many news services capitalize on the holidays by developing “Year in Review” articles. Companies should warn their employees about the risks of clicking on these types of links from their work emails. Links from phony sources could infect and compromise the security of company devices.
  11. .BYO…Device: With an increase in travel, activity (and bubbly!) over the busy holiday season, you are more likely to forget their smart phones in public places. This is not just an inconvenience. It is also way for hackers to access sensitive personal information and business data if the appropriate security measures are not in place.
  12. .Bad USB Blues: During the holiday season, you may see an increase in gift baskets from vendors who want to continue doing business with your company in the upcoming year. One of the most popular items in these baskets includes branded USBs. Beware of using these, as undetectable malware is sometimes pre-installed on them.

Also see 12 Online Scams: How to avoid unwrapping an online threat (Part 2)




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