Online Shoppers Beware: McAfee Lists 12 Scams To Avoid During The Holiday Period

Written by Martin Kovacs     11/11/2014 | 22:22 | Category: SECURITY & SUPPORT

Leading into the Christmas trading period, security technology company McAfee has released its annual "12 Scams of Christmas" list, educating consumers about cybersecurity.

Online Shoppers Beware: McAfee Lists 12 Scams To Avoid During The Holiday PeriodWith consumers now more than ever shopping online via mobile devices, McAfee, part of Intel Security, notes cyberscams "leverage all types of digital devices, social media platforms and mobile apps to take advantage of consumers' distraction" during the holiday period.

"More and more, consumers are using their devices to seek out the best bargains online in a bid to make the Christmas shopping process as painless as possible - in doing so, they need to be aware of the ways that criminals are looking to exploit them," commented Mike Sentonas, McAfee VP and CTO - Security Connected.

"Understanding what to watch out for and how to properly secure their devices gives consumers the information they need to protect their digital lives and personal information."

Providing an overview of the modus operandi behind some of the most common online scams, McAfee's 12 Scams of Christmas for this year are as follows:

1. You've Got Mail! - As Christmas retail sales continue to migrate online, the risk for shipping notification and phishing scams is increasing. Though malware is a year-round risk, since many people do their Christmas shopping online, consumers are more apt to click on a shipping notification or phishing email because they think it is legit.

2. Deceptive Advertising - Everyone is searching for steals and deals during the Christmas break: keep your eyes peeled (and your wallet in check) when online shopping for this season's most coveted products. Dangerous links, phony contests on social media, and bogus gift cards are just some of the ways scammers try to steal your personal information and ruin your holiday cheer.

3. Chilling Charities - 'Tis the season for giving. During the holidays, many consumers give back by donating to their favourite charity. Sadly, no good deed goes unpunished. Be wary of fake charities that could reach you via email, or which are shared virally through social media.

4. Buyer Beware - There are just some scams that you can't help but fall victim to, unfortunately, with point-of-sale malware that leads to exposing credit card information falling into this category. Make sure you check your credit card statements vigilantly and stay on top of breaking news to be aware and prepared.

5. iScams - New mobile apps for Android and iOS devices are added every day: thanks to the ongoing advancement of technology, your mobile device can control the temperature in your house, keep you connected to social media and add cool filters to your holiday photos. Even the most official-looking or festive apps could be malicious and access your personal information.

6. Getting Carded - Digital e-cards to spread the holiday cheer are fun, easy and, most importantly, thoughtful, and while you may want a loved one to send you "Season's Greetings", hackers are looking to wish you a "Merry Malware!". Well-known e-card sites are safe, but be wary of potential scams that cause you to download malware onto your device.

7. Christmas Travel Scams - With travel on the rise during the peak of the festive season, online scammers are ready to take advantage of the fact that consumers often become less vigilant about their safety. Fake online travel deal links are bountiful, but there are also risks that exist once you arrive at your destination, including spyware that can access your information through logging onto infected PCs onsite.

8. Bank Robocall Scam - When holiday spending increases and consumers are aware of the abuse to their bank accounts and credit cards, hackers use this as an opportunity. In most cases, consumers receive a fake phone call from one of these institutions from an automated (or not) "security agent" stating that the user's account has been compromised and requesting personal information, including the account password, to make changes.

9. ATM Skimming - During the holiday season you need cash and are usually in a rush to get it. Criminals can access your information at ATMs by installing skimming devices to steal the data off your card's magnetic strip, and either using a video camera or keypad overlay to capture your PIN. A simple solution is to look carefully at your ATM for anything suspicious and cover the keypad when entering your PIN.

10. "Year in Review" Traps - Many news services capitalise on the holidays by developing "Year in Review" articles: companies should warn their employees about the risks of clicking on these types of links from their work emails, and consumers should be wary, too. Links from phony sources could infect and compromise the security of company devices.

11. BYO ... Device - With an increase in travel activity (and bubbly!) over the busy Christmas period, people are more likely to forget their smartphones in public places. While inconvenient for them, it is also a way for hackers to access sensitive personal information and business data if the appropriate security measures are not in place.

12. Bad USB Blues - During the holiday season, you may see an increase in gift baskets from vendors who want to continue doing business with your company in the upcoming year. One of the most popular items in these baskets includes branded USBs: beware allowing your employees to use these, as undetectable malware is sometimes pre-installed on them.

McAfee additionally recommends, whether online shopping, donating to charities, or tracking gifts, that consumers do their research to make sure the company they are dealing with is legitimate.

"Holiday season or not, cyberscams and identity theft happen very frequently throughout the year," McAfee further states, advising users to stay informed of potential threats.

"Now that the shopping season has begun and the danger is heightened, it is important to constantly be aware of new cyberattacks or threats in the marketplace."