‘Tis The Season To Be Scammed! What to Look Out for During the Holidays

Holiday shopping will kick off this week with Black Friday after Thanksgiving and will continue until Cyber Monday.  After that, you can expect more great deals as Christmas nears and until the early weeks of January.  Though a lot of people would endure falling in line for hours just to get the best deals, some people prefer the more laidback approach and just shop online.

In a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of McAfee, Inc., 70 percent of people plan on shopping online and about 24 percent or 1 in 4 Americans will use their mobile device, a tablet or smartphone, to research or purchase holiday gifts.  And even if they know how risky it is to shop online, about 87 percent are aware of the risk, 9 in 10 people or 88 percent are willing to give out personal information just so they could get a discounted deal.

Risks online have been around for ages but the difference now is that there are more ways to trick people and there more devices that can be used as a vehicle to get personal information such as bank accounts to scam consumers out of thousands or even millions of dollars.

“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,” said Paula Greve, director at McAfee Labs.  “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 or other 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.”

McAfee’s 12 Scams Of Christmas
The infographic is pretty self explanatory but since it’s the start of the holidays, and we are so gracious ;) , we’ll give you a more detailed explanation and examples of risks shoppers are facing.of the risks.

1) Social media scams— Facebook and Twitter is now fast becoming a venue for luring people into clicking links that brings people to shady sites.  We’re all a bit trusting on social networks because the people there are those that we know, and some of us don’t even think twice about opening something from some we know.
2) Malicious Mobile Apps—We love apps as much as our mobile devices, and this love has caught the attention of malicious authors.  So now, there are app available in legit app stores  that serves as a vessel for malware to infiltrate your mobile device.  The malware injected can be capable of hijacking your phone and steal personal information or jack up your phone bill by sending premium SMS.

3) Travel Scams—If you’re planning a holiday trip or going home during the holidays and are in search for cheap flights and accommodations, use legit booking sites instead of sites that offer to-good-to-be-true deals.  If anybody offers something that’s too-good-to-be-true, then it’s probably not real.
4) Holiday Spam/Phishing—I know it’s quite difficult to find the perfect Christmas gift for your loved one but that doesn’t mean that you have to fall for scams on e-mail claiming to be the “perfect gift” such as Rolex watches at very affordable price.  Pharmaceutical ads will also be disguising as themselves with holiday themes to fool you into visiting their sites, so be very careful.
5) iPhone 5, iPad Mini and other hot holiday gift scams—A lot of people would want to get a brnad new iPhone 5, an iPad mini, the fourth gen iPad or the top of the line Android mobile devices.  The thing is, all of those come at a very steep price.  So sites that offer very affordable gadgets are not to be trusted.   And if you see anything that says “FREE” iPhone or iPad or any other device, just ignore them no matter how tempting it could be.  I’m sure these sites will just inject malware into your device.

6) Skype Message Scare—Skype may be the most used communication during the holidays and Skype users should be aware that there are scammers who will infect their computers via malicious links and some can even hold files for ransom.

7) Bogus gift cards—If you think gift cards are the perfect gifts, I advise you to buy them from the company itself, not from third party sites as they could be bogus gift cards which means though they offer a $100 gift card for only $50 or even for free, there’s a huge chance that the receiver won’t be able to use them as they are fake.

 

8) Holiday SMiShing—SMiShing is phishing via text wherein unknown people pretend to be from a legitimate company or organization who will lure you into divulging important information or performing actions that you don’t normally do.

9) Phony E-tailers– These sites easily lure in people by displaying fake ads for merchandise.  The point is to lure people into buying the fake merchandise so they would input their credit or debit card information and other pertinent information.  Voila!  You get a credit card bill for something you didn’t buy.

10) Fake charities—Some people give to charity during the holidays as a form of giving back to share all their blessings.  Unfortunately, some people take advantage of the goodness in other people and they use that to lure them into “donating” to “charities.”  If you receive e-mails regarding a certain foundation asking for a donation, and you really want to donate, better check if that’s a legit organization before doing so.

11) Dangerous e-cards— E-Cards have replaced traditional greeting cards as they are cheaper, some are free, and they get to the person on time.  But some e-cards contain spyware or viruses that are downloaded when the receiver gets it.

12) Phony classifieds— Online classified sites may be a great place to look for holiday gifts and part-time jobs, but there are a lot of phony offers that ask for too much personal information or ask you to wire funds via Western Union.  If you encounter these, do not continue and leave the site immediately.

The holidays should be the season of fun, love and laughter and we here at SiliconANGLE want to keep it that way.  So we remind all you guys to be very careful when doing your holiday shopping online.  Buy from legitimate online shops and if they ask for far too much information, leave the site immediately.  If you think your system has been compromised, run an antivirus scan if you have an antivirus already installed, if not download one – from a legit site, and ran a complete scan.

About Mellisa Tolentino

Mellisa is a staff writer for SiliconAngle, covering social and mobile news. She is fascinated by technology and loves imparting what she learns through her journey as a writer. Got a news story or tip? Send it to mellisa@siliconangle.com