Avoiding holiday scams

Published: December 6, 2011 by ofonseca

With the flood of online shoppers comes the accompanying tidal wave of fraudsters washing over the cheerful holiday landscape.  Hidden behind the online mistletoe, cyber-thieves lurk with seasonal scams, virtual Scrooges with plans to spoil holiday shopping for consumers and retailers.

Here, according to McAfee, are 12 common holiday scams to beware of:

1. iPad scams.  Watch out for bogus offers for free iPads on social media sites and via spam.

2. “Help! I’ve been robbed” scam. Fraudsters send emails appearing to come from the account of friends which state that they’ve been robbed while traveling abroad and need money to be wired in order to get home.

3. Fake gift cards. With these scams, cybercriminals promise fake gift cards in exchange for personal information that can be used for identity theft.

4. Holiday job offers. Fake, high-paying, work at home jobs are offered in exchange for personal information.

5. “Smishing.” Scammers “phish” via text message, or smish, often posing as a bank or online retailer requesting personal information to address a problem with a target’s account.

6. Holiday rental scams. Fake, attractive rental properties at low prices are advertised on phony websites in order to lure deposits via wire transfer.

7. Recession scams.  Financial “help” is offered to targets in the form of pay-in-advance credit schemes and pre-qualified low-interest loans, all in exchange for an upfront processing free.

8. Grinch-like Greetings. Fake e-cards are loaded with links to computer viruses and other malware.

9. Low price traps. Auction sites and phony websites are used to offer too-good-to-be-true prices on holiday gifts; the scammers walk away with information and/or money.

10.  Charity scams. Solicitations for phony charities play on the spirit of holiday giving and philanthropic generosity.

11. Dodgy holiday downloads. Watch out for holiday-themed jingles, screensavers and animations distributed via downloads, spam or dubious websites – they could contain malware.

12. Hotel and airport Wi-Fi. During this season of high travel, Wi-Fi hotspots are criminal hangouts, with scammers eager to hack into unprotected networks.

This holiday season, make sure that you, your employees and your customers are on high alert for the seasonal scams that turn up with the regularity of fruitcake…and are just as unwanted.