This was in the MPI (Meeting Professionals International) Texas Hill Country Chapter Newsletter, originally published in Austin Business Journal. McAfee Inc. released these top scams, calling it the 12 Scams of Christmas – the 12 most dangerous online scams this holiday season. Our cyber-health is so important. When our computer’s act up, our business productivity can go down. So don’t let these scams rob you of your industrious spirit!
1. iPads: With Apple Inc. products topping lots of shopping lists this holiday season, scammers are busy distributing bogus offers for free iPads. McAfee Labs found that in the spam version of the scam consumers are asked to purchase other products and provide their credit card number to get the free iPad.
In the social media version of the scam, users take a quiz to win a free iPad and must supply their cell phone number to receive the results. In actuality they are signed up for a cell phone scam that costs $10 a week.
2. Help me! This travel scam sends phony distress messages to family and friends requesting that money be wired or transferred so that they can get home.
3. Fake gift cards: Cybercrooks use social media to promote fake gift card offers with the goal of stealing consumers’ information and money, which is then sold to marketers or used for identity theft.
One recent scam on Facebook offered a “free $1,000 Best Buy gift card” to the first 20,000 people who signed up for a Best Buy fan page, which was a look-a-like. To apply for the gift card they had to provide personal information and take a series of quizzes.
4. Job offers: As people seek extra cash for gifts this holiday season, Twitter scams offer dangerous links to high-paying, work-at-home jobs that ask for your personal information, such as your e-mail address, home address and Social Security number to apply for the fake job.
5. Smishing: Cybercrooks are now “smishing,” or sending phishing SMS texts. These texts appear to come from your bank or an online retailer saying that there is something wrong with an account and you have to call a number to verify your account information. In reality, these efforts are merely a ruse to extract valuable personal information from the targets.
6. Holiday rentals: Cybercrooks post fake holiday rental sites that ask for down payments on properties by credit card or wire transfer.
7. Recession scams: Scammers target vulnerable consumers with recession related scams such as pay-in-advance credit schemes. McAfee said it has seen a significant number of spam e-mails advertising prequalified, low-interest loans and credit cards if the recipient pays a processing fee.
8. Greetings: E-cards are a convenient and earth-friendly way to send greetings to friends and family, but cybercriminals load fake versions with links to viruses and malware.
9. Price traps: Shoppers should be cautious of products offered at prices far below competitors. Cyberscammers use auction sites and fake websites to offer too-good-to-be-true deals with the goal of stealing your money and information.
10. Charity scams: Common ploys include phone calls and spam e-mails asking you to donate to veterans’ charities, children’s causes and relief funds for the latest catastrophe.
11. Downloads: Holiday-themed screen savers, jingles and animations are an easy way for scammers to spread viruses and other computer threats especially when links come from an e-mail or instant message that appears to be from a friend.
12. Wi-fi: During the holidays many people travel and use free Wi-fi in places like hotels and airports. This is a tempting time for thieves to hack into networks hoping to find opportunities for theft.
May you (and your computer) have a safe and healthy holiday season!