12 Scams Of Christmas

  • Mobile handset scams high on the list
  • Social networking makes list
  • Macs are not immune

Software security company McAfee has announced its 12 scams to watch out for over the Christmas period. From phishing, to phony Facebook promos, scammers are just dying to part you from your hard-earned cash. So in no particular order, here are some of the ways and means by which you could be made poorer by unscrupulous cybercrims.

  1. Mobile Malware: A recent study carried out by IPSOS Research, dated 08 September 2011, found that two in five Australian smartphone owners use their device for search daily and Australians are increasingly making purchases via their mobiles with almost a quarter having done so in 2011. Malware targeted at mobile devices is on the rise, and Android smartphones are most at risk. McAfee cites a 76 per cent increase in malware targeted at Android devices in the second quarter of 2011 over the first, making it the most targeted smartphone platform. New malware has recently been found that targets QR (‘Quick Response’) codes, a digital barcode that consumers might scan with their smartphone to find good deals, or just to learn about products they want to buy.
  2. Malicious Mobile Applications: These are mobile apps designed to steal information from smartphones or send out expensive text messages without a user’s consent. Dangerous apps are usually offered for free and masquerade as fun applications, such as games.
  3. Phony Facebook Promotions and Contests: Cyberscammers target Facebook with phony promotions and contests aimed at gathering personal information.
  4. Scareware, or Fake Antivirus software: Scareware is the fake antivirus software that tricks someone into believing that their computer is at risk—or already infected—so they agree to download and pay for phony software.
  5. Holiday Screensavers: Bringing holiday cheer to your home or work PC sounds like a fun idea to get into the holiday spirit, but be careful. A recent search for a Santa screensaver that promises to let you “fly with Santa in 3D” is malicious.  Holiday-themed ringtones and e-cards have been known to be malicious too. Perform a security scan on the file before installing or sending the file.
  6. Mac Malware: Until recently, Mac users felt pretty insulated from online security threats, since most were targeted at PCs. But with the growing popularity of Apple products for both business and personal use, cybercriminals have designed a new wave of malware directed at Mac users. According to McAfee LabsTM, as of late 2010 there were 5,000 pieces of malware targeting Macs, and this number is increasing by 10 per cent month on month.
  7. Holiday Phishing Scams:  A common holiday phishing scam is a phony notice from UPS, saying you have a package and need to fill out an attached form to get it delivered. The form may ask for personal or financial details that will go straight into the hands of the cyberscammer. Banking phishing scams continue to be popular and the holiday season means consumers will be spending more money—and checking bank balances more often. From July to September of this year, McAfee Labs identified approximately 2,700 phishing URLs per day. Smishing – SMS phishing – remains a concern. Scammers send their fake messages via a text alert to a phone, notifying an unsuspecting consumer that his bank account has been compromised.
  8. Online Coupon Scams: One popular coupon scam is to lure consumers with the hope of winning a "free" iPad. Consumers click on a phishing site, which can result in email spam and possibly dealing with identify theft. Another is that consumers are offered an online coupon code and, once they agree, are asked to provide personal information, including credit-card details, passwords and other financial data.
  9. Mystery Shopper Scams:Mystery shoppers are people who are hired to shop in a store and report back on the customer service.  Sadly, scammers are now using this fun job to try to lure people into revealing personal and financial information.  There have been reports of scammers sending text messages to victims, offering to pay them $50 an hour to be a mystery shopper and instructing them to call a number if they are interested.  Once the victim calls, they are asked for their personal information, including credit card and bank account numbers.
  10. Hotel "Wrong Transaction" Malware Emails: Scammers have designed travel-related scams in the hopes of getting us to click on dangerous emails. In one recent example, a scammer sent out emails that appeared to be from a hotel, claiming that a "wrong transaction" had been discovered on the recipient’s credit card.  It then asked them to fill out an attached refund form. Once opened, the attachment downloads malware onto their machine.
  11. “It” Gift Scams: When a gift is hot, not only do sellers mark up the price, but scammers will also start advertising these gifts on rogue websites and social networks, even if they don’t have them.
  12. “I’m away from home” Scammers: Posting information about a holiday on social networking sites could potentially be dangerous.  Someone connected with that poster on Facebook or other social networking sites could see their post and decide that it may be a good time to rob them.  Furthermore, a quick online search can easily turn up their home address.