McAfee warns of increase in holiday scams

Online shoppers, social network users need to be increasingly careful over the holiday period

Tags: Cyber crimeMcAfee Incorporation
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McAfee warns of increase in holiday scams McAfee has warned that online shoppers and social network users need to be extra vigilant this holiday season.
By  Georgina Enzer Published  November 9, 2011

McAfee has warned online shoppers to watch out for online scams this holiday season.

"Cyber-criminals rub their hands with glee when they think of the holidays," said Gary Davis, director of consumer product marketing at McAfee. "Consumers are making travel plans, shopping for gifts and bargains, updating Facebook and connecting with friends. However, the vast majority have no security protection for their smartphones or tablets, despite using them heavily during the holiday season. Consumers need to stay one step ahead of this season's cyber-scrooges, and make sure they have protection for all of their internet-enabled devices. Otherwise, they could risk giving the bad guys the biggest gift of all - their own personal and financial information."

The first scam that holiday shoppers must be wary of, McAfee warned is mobile malware, which is rapidly increasing and with many mobile users planning to use their smartphones for holiday-shopping related activities they are at risk of being attacked and having data stolen.

The second scam is malicious mobile applications, which are designed to steal information from smartphones, or send out expensive text messages without a user's consent. These apps are usually offered for free, and masquerade as fun applications, such as games.

Phony Facebook promotions and contests are the third scam users must be aware of this holiday season. Cyber-scammers fill Facebook with phony promotions and contests aimed at gathering personal information during the holiday season.

The fourth scam to be aware of is scareware, or fake antivirus software. McAfee estimates that one million victims fall for this scam each day.

Another scam users should watch out for according to McAfee is malicious holiday screensavers. A recent search for a Santa screensaver that promises to let you ‘fly with Santa in 3D' is malicious.  Holiday-themed ringtones and e-cards have been known to be malicious too.

Users should also be wary of Mac malware. With the growing popularity of Apple products, for both business and personal use, cyber-criminals have designed a new wave of malware directed at Mac users. According to McAfee Labs, as of late 2010, there were 5,000 pieces of malware targeting Macs, and this number is increasing by 10% month on month.

Another threat, holiday phishing scams, trick consumers into revealing information or performing actions they wouldn't normally do online using phony email or social media posts. Cyber-scammers tailor their emails and social messages with holiday themes in the hopes of tricking recipients into revealing personal information. 

A common holiday phishing scam is a phony notice from UPS, saying you have a package and need to fill out an attached form to get it delivered. The form may ask for personal or financial details.

Banking phishing scams continue to be popular and the holiday season means consumers will be spending more money, and checking bank balances more often. From July to September of this year, McAfee Labs identified approximately 2,700 phishing URLs per day.

SMS phishing also remains a concern. Scammers send fake messages via a text alert to a phone, notifying an unsuspecting consumer that their bank account has been compromised. The cyber-criminals then direct the consumer to call a phone number to get it re-activated, and collects the user's personal information including address, and account details.

Another scam social networking users must be aware of is posting their whereabouts.

Posting information about a vacation on social networking sites could actually be dangerous.  Strangers can see these posts and rob the user while they are away, a quick online search can easily turn up their home address.

Online coupon scams, mystery shopper scams, hotel ‘Wrong Transaction' malware emails, and ‘It' gift scams also feature on the McAfee list.

According to McAfee, users should only download mobile apps from official app stores, such as iTunes and the Android Market, and read user reviews before downloading them, users should also be extra vigilant when reviewing and responding to emails, watch out for too-good-to-be-true offers on social networks and never agree to reveal personal information just to participate in a promotion to prevent themselves from being compromised online.

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