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Beware! Top 12 Scams of Christmas

Last updated on: December 20, 2012 08:48 IST

Beware! Top 12 Scams of Christmas

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McAfee exposes the Top 12 Scams of Christmas that criminals plan to use to rip off consumers as they shop online this holiday season.

McAfee's findings from the company's 2012 Holiday Shopping Study shows of the 70% of the surveyed, plan to shop online this holiday season, a surprising 3 in 4 (71%) of them plan to use their mobile devices, and while aware of the risks, they are willing to give away their personal information if they can get something they value in return.

Indian respondents scored the highest amongst all countries in terms of resorting to smart phones to purchase holiday gifts for others for end of year celebrations.

Compared to other countries, India ranks highest (67%) on the metrics of respondents worrying about personal information being stolen while using a mobile app on the smart phone or tablet.

Here are the "12 Scams of Christmas," the dozen most dangerous online scams to watch out for this holiday season, revealed by McAfee.

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Image: A diver dressed as Santa Claus swims with dolphins at Hakkeijima Sea Paradise in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.
Photographs: Yuriko Nakao/Reuters.
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1. Social media scams

Many of us use social media sites to connect with family, friends, and co-workers over the holidays, and the cybercriminals know that this is a good place to catch you off guard because we're all "friends," right?

Here are some ways that criminals will use these channels to obtain shopper's gift money, identity or other personal information:

Scammers use channels, like Facebook and Twitter, just like email and websites to scam consumers during the holidays.

Be careful when clicking or liking posts, while taking advantage of contests, ads and special deals that you get from your "friends" that advertise the hottest Holiday gifts (such as the new iPad Mini), exclusive discounts at local stores, holiday-related jobs postings, and your friends' accounts being hacked and sending out fake alerts to all their "friends."

Twitter ads and special discounts for popular gifts are especially huge the week of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and utilize blind, shortened links, many of which could easily be malicious.

Criminals are getting savvier with authentic-looking social ads and deals that take consumers to legitimate looking websites. In order to take advantage of the deals or contests, they ask them for personal information that can obtain a shopper's credit card number, email address, phone number or home address.

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Photographs: Valentin Flauraud/Reuters.

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2. Malicious Mobile Apps

As smartphone users we are app crazy, downloading over 25 billion apps for Android devices alone! But as the popularity of applications has grown, so have the chances that you could download a malicious application designed to steal your information or even send out premium-rate text messages without your knowledge.

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3. Travel Scams

Before you book your flight or hotel to head home to see your loved ones for the holidays, keep in mind that the scammers are looking to hook you with too-good-to-be-true deals.

Phony travel webpages, sometimes using your preferred company, with beautiful pictures and rock-bottom prices are used to get you to hand over your financial details.

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Image: Air New Zealand.
Photographs: Reuters.
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4. Holiday Spam/Phishing

Soon many of these spam emails will take on holiday themes. Cheap Rolex watches and pharmaceuticals may be advertised as the "perfect gift" for that special someone.

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Image: Rolex watch.


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5. iPhone 5, iPad Mini and other hot holiday gift scams

The kind of excitement and buzz surrounding Apple's new iPhone 5 or iPad Mini is just what cybercrooks dream of when they plot their scams.

They will mention must-have holiday gifts in dangerous links, phony contests (example: "Free iPad") and phishing emails as a way to grab computer users' attention to get you to reveal personal information or click on a dangerous link that could download malware onto your machine.

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Image: iPhone 5.
Photographs: Beck Diefenbach/Reuters.
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6. Skype Message Scare

People around the world will use Skype to connect with loved ones this holiday season, but they should be aware of a new Skype message scam that attempts to infect their machine, and even hold their files for ransom.

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7. Bogus gift cards

Cybercriminals can't help but want to get in on the action by offering bogus gift cards online.

Be wary of buying gift cards from third parties; just imagine how embarrassing it would be to find out that the gift card you gave your mother-in-law was fraudulent!

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8. Holiday SMiShing

"SMiSishing" is phishing via text message. Just like with email phishing, the scammer tries to lure you into revealing information or performing an action you normally wouldn't do by pretending to be a legitimate organization.

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Photographs: Will Burgess/Reuters.
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9. Phony E-tailers

Phony e-commerce sites, that appear real, try to lure you into typing in your credit card number and other personal details, often by promoting great deals.

But, after obtaining your money and information, you never receive the merchandise, and your personal information is put at risk.

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Photographs: Reuters.
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10. Fake charities

This is one of the biggest scams of every holiday season. As we open up our hearts and wallets, the bad guys hope to get in on the giving by sending spam emails advertising fake charities.

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Photographs: Courtesy, ebay.
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11. Dangerous e-cards

E-cards are a popular way to send a quick "thank you" or holiday greeting, but some are malicious and may contain spyware or viruses that download onto your computer once you click on the link to view the greeting.

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12. Phony classifieds

Online classified sites may be a great place to look for holiday gifts and part-time jobs, but beware of phony offers that ask for too much personal information or ask you to wire funds via Western Union, since these are most likely scams.





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