12 Scams of Xmas

  • Scams cost Aussies $70 million last year
  • Strong dollar means cybercrims target Australia
  • Cybercrims relying on holiday spirit

McAfee has listed the 12 most dangerous online scams that Australian consumers should be aware of in the lead up to Christmas. Australia is seeing a rise in the number of scams resulting in consumer personal information being stolen or suffering financial losses. During 2009, losses through scams reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) totalledalmost $70 million.

iPad Offer Scams
With Apple products topping most shopping lists this holiday season, scammers are busy distributing bogus offers for free iPads. Consumers are asked to purchase other products and provide their credit card number to get the free iPad. Victims never receive the iPad or the other items. In the social media version of the scam, users take a quiz to win a free iPad and must supply their mobile number to receive the results. In actuality they are signed up for a scam that costs $10 a week.

“Help! I’ve Been Robbed” Scam
This travel scam sends fraudulent distress messages to family and friends requesting that money be wired or transferred so that they can get home. McAfee Labs has seen an increase in this scam and predicts its rise during the busy travel season, especially if the Australian dollar maintains its strength,

Fake Gift Cards
Cybercrooks use social media to promote fake gift card offers with the goal of stealing consumers’ information and money, which is then sold to marketers or used for ID theft. One recent Myer scam offered a “free $500 Myer gift card” which was suspected to contain a link to a virus that would steal bank account information. To apply for the gift card, people had to provide personal information.  

Holiday Job Offers
As people seek extra cash for gifts this holiday season, Twitter scams offer dangerous links to high-paying, work-at-home jobs that ask for your personal information, such as your email and home address to apply for the fake job.

Cybercrooks are now “smishing,” or sending phishing SMS texts. These texts appear to come from your bank or an online retailer saying that there is something wrong with an account and you have to call a number to verify your account information. In reality, these efforts are merely a ruse to extract valuable personal information from the targets. Cybercrooks know that people are more vulnerable to this scam during the holiday season when consumers are doing more online shopping and checking bank balances frequently.

Suspicious Holiday Rentals
During peak travel times when consumers often look online for affordable holiday rentals, cybercrooks post fake holiday rental sites that ask for down payments on properties by credit card or bank transfer.

GFC Scams Continue
Scammers target vulnerable consumers with GFC-related scams such as pay-in-advance credit schemes. McAfee Labs has seen a number of spam emails advertising prequalified, low-interest loans and credit cards if the recipient pays a processing fee, which goes directly into the scammer’s pocket.

Grinch-like Greetings
E-cards are a convenient and earth-friendly way to send greetings to friends and family, but instead of Christmas cheer, cybercriminals load fake versions with links to viruses and other malware. According to McAfee Labs, computers may start displaying obscene images, pop-up ads, or even start sending cards to contacts that appear to come from you.

Low Price Traps
Shoppers should be cautious of products offered at prices far below competitors. Cyber scammers use auction sites and fake websites to offer too-good-to-be-true deals with the goal of stealing your money and information.

Charity Scams
The holidays have historically been a prime time for charity scams since it’s a traditional time for giving, and McAfee Labs predicts that this year is no exception. Common ploys include phone calls and spam e-mails asking you to donate to veterans’ charities, children's causes and relief funds for the latest catastrophe.

Dangerous Holiday Downloads
Holiday-themed screensavers, jingles and animations are an easy way for scammers to spread viruses and other computer threats especially when links come from an email or IM that appears to be from a friend.

Hotel and Airport Wi-fi
During the holidays many people travel and use free wi-fi in places like hotels and airports. This is a tempting time for thieves to hack into networks hoping to find opportunities for theft.