Pat Foran: How to avoid holiday scams
Published Thursday, November 17, 2011 11:15AM EST
With the holidays just around the corner, 'tis not only the season to be merry, but the season to be wary. Scam artists have long targeted shoppers at the mall. Now they're finding new ways to steal your money and your personal information. Here are the five top scams you should watch out for this year.
Top Five Holiday Scams:
1. Mobile malware
Malware targeted at mobile devices is on the rise, and Android smartphones are most at risk. In its Q2 2011 Threats Report, McAfee cited a 76 per cent increase in malware targeted at Android devices as compared to the previous quarter, making it the most targeted smartphone platform. Additionally, security experts have recently found new malware that targets QR codes, a digital barcode that consumers might scan with their smartphone to learn about products they want to buy or find good holiday shopping deals.
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. For example, last year, 4.6 million Android smartphone users downloaded a suspicious wallpaper app that collected and transmitted user data to a foreign and suspicious site.
3. Holiday phishing scams
Phishing is the act of tricking consumers into revealing information or performing actions they wouldn't normally do online. Cyber scammers know that most people are busy around the holidays, so they tailor their emails and social messages with holiday themes in the hopes of tricking recipients into revealing personal information. A common holiday phishing scam is a phony notice from a local courier service stating that 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 cyber scammer.
4. Phony Facebook promotions and contests
Who doesn't want to win some free prizes or get a great deal around the holidays? Cyber scammers know that these are attractive lures and they have sprinkled Facebook with phony promotions and contests aimed at gathering personal information. A recent scam advertised two free airline tickets, but required participants to fill out multiple surveys requesting personal information. Once collected, this information was given to telemarketers.
5. Online coupon scams
Couponing has become wildly popular and there's nothing better than a deal during the holidays. Scammers know that by offering irresistible online coupons, they can convince people to hand over some of their personal information. One popular 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. 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.
How to Protect Yourself:
- Don't post information about a vacation or being away from home on social networking sites. Someone may see it as an invitation to rob you. Wait to post pictures and comments about your vacation until you've returned home.
- Only download mobile apps from official app stores, such as iTunes and the Android Market, and read user reviews before downloading them.
- Watch out for too-good-to-be-true offers on social networks. Never agree to reveal your personal information just to participate in a promotion.
- Don't accept requests on social networks from people you don't know in real life
- Don't open emails from unfamiliar senders or provide any personal information
- Beware of downloading fake antivirus software (also known as Scareware) that can trick you into believing your computer is at risk or already infected. An estimated one million victims falls for this scam every day.
Information courtesy of McAfee