Ask Us logo


12 Scams of Christmas

With the holiday shopping season now here, even if you are not doing your shopping online there are threats you should be aware of. These scams target online shoppers, social media, malicious mobile apps and even travel. Here are the top 12 online scams of the 2012 holiday season.

As the McAfee global consumer marketing vice president Gary David said in a blog post "With online holiday shopping expected to grow 12.1 percent in the US alone this year, to as much as $96 billion, and more people than ever using social media and mobile devices to connect, the cybercriminals have a lot of opportunities to spoil our fun."

This year's top 12 scams include:

1. Social media scams: Scammers can use sites like Facebook and Twitter to scam consumers during the holidays. Be careful when liking Fan Pages, clicking on fake alerts from friends' accounts that have been hacked, or installing suspicious "holiday deal" apps that give your private data away. Also beware of Twitter ads and special discounts for popular gifts using blind, shortened links.

2. Malicious Mobile Apps: Be careful not to download a malicious application designed to steal information or send out premium-rate text messages. Make sure that you only download applications from official app stores and check other users' reviews and the app's permission policies.

3. Travel Scams: Before booking travel arrangements, beware of scams with too-good-to-be-true deals, phony travel webpages with beautiful pictures and rock-bottom prices. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also warns travelers of a hotel Wi-Fi scam where a malicious pop-up ad prompts computer users to install a popular software product before connecting to their hotel Wi-Fi. Do a security software update before traveling, to guard against the latest scams.

4. Holiday Spam/Phishing: Cheap Rolex watches and pharmaceuticals may be advertised as the "perfect gift" while holiday-themed phishing emails may try to trick you into revealing financial or personal details by posing as an offer from a legitimate business.

5. The new iPad, iPhone 5, and other hot holiday gift scams: Cybercrooks are likely to mention must-have holiday gifts in dangerous links, phony contests and phishing emails.

6. Skype Message Scare: A new Skype message scam attempts to infect victims' machines, and hold their files for ransom. The threat appears as a Skype instant message with the scam line "Lol is this your new profile pic?" Clicking on the link downloads a Trojan onto the computer.

7. Bogus gift cards: Be wary of buying gift cards from third parties and buy instead from the official retailer.

8. Holiday SMiShing or phishing via text message: The scammer tries to lure you into revealing information by pretending to be a legitimate organization.

9. Phony E-tailers: Phony e-commerce sites that appear real will try to lure you into typing in your credit card number and other personal details.

10. Fake charities: Cybercriminals may try to fool you into thinking that they are a real charity, such as the Red Cross, with a "stolen logo and copycat text." It is safer to visit the charity's legitimate website.

11. Dangerous e-cards: Some are malicious and may contain spyware or viruses, or download a Trojan.

12. Phony classifieds: Phony offers may ask for too much personal information or ask you to wire funds via Western Union.