Cybercriminals Take Advantage of the Holiday Season Aiming to Steal Canadians' Money, Identities and Financial
MARKHAM, ON, Dec. 15 /CNW/ - As Canadians gear up for the final
countdown to Christmas, McAfee is reminding consumers to be vigilant
with their information this holiday season. To help Canadians protect
themselves online, McAfee has released the "Twelve Scams of Christmas"
- the 12 most dangerous online scams that computer users should be
cautious of this year.
"Scams continue to be big business for cybercriminals who have their
sights set on capitalizing on open hearts and wallets this holiday
season," said Dave Marcus, director of security research for McAfee
Labs. "As people jump online to look for deals on gifts and travel,
it's important to recognize common scams to safeguard against theft
during the busy season ahead."
Twelve Scams of Christmas
iPad Offer Scams
With Apple products topping most 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. Of course, victims never receive the iPad or the other
items, just the headache of reporting a stolen credit card number.
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
"Help! I've Been Robbed" Scam
This travel scam sends phony distress messages to family and friends
requesting that money be wired or transferred so that they can get
home. McAfee Labs has seen an increase in this scam and predicts its
rise during the busy travel season.
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 ID theft.
One recent Facebook scam offered a "free US$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.
Holiday Job Offers
As people seek extra cash for gifts this holiday season, Twitter scams
offer dangerous links to high-paying, work-at-home jobs. Users are
asked to supply personal information such as their email address, home
address and Social Security number to apply for the fake job.
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 must call to verify
your information. In reality, these efforts are merely a ruse to extract valuable
personal information from the targets. Cybercrooks know that people
are more vulnerable to this scam during the holiday season when
consumers are doing more online shopping and checking bank balances
Suspicious Holiday Rentals
During peak travel times when consumers often look online for affordable
holiday rentals, cybercrooks post fake holiday rental sites that ask
for down payments on properties by credit card or wire transfer.
Recession Scams Continue
Scammers target vulnerable consumers with recession related scams such
as pay-in-advance credit schemes. McAfee Labs has seen a significant
number of spam emails advertising prequalified, low-interest loans and
credit cards if the recipient pays a processing fee, which goes
directly into the scammer's pocket.
E-cards are a convenient and earth-friendly way to send greetings to
friends and family, but cybercriminals load fake versions with links
that spread computer viruses and other malware instead of cheer. According to McAfee Labs, computers may start
displaying obscene images, pop-up ads or even start sending cards to
contacts that appear to come from you.
Low Price Traps
Shoppers should be cautious of products offered at prices far below
competitors. Cyber scammers use auction sites and fake websites to
offer too-good-to-be-true deals with the goal of stealing your money
The holidays have historically been a prime time for charity scams since
it's a traditional time for giving, and McAfee Labs predicts that this
year is no exception. 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.
Dangerous Holiday Downloads
Holiday-themed screensavers, jingles and animations are an easy way for
scammers to spread viruses and other computer threats, especially when
links come from an email or IM that appears to be from a friend.
Hotel and Airport 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.
McAfee advises Internet users to follow these five tips to protect their
computers and personal information:
Stick to well-established and trusted sites that include trust marks
(icons or seals from third parties verifying that the site is safe),
user reviews and customer support. A reputable trust mark provider will
have a live link attached to its trust mark icon, which will take
visitors to a verification Web site of the trust mark provider.
Do not respond to offers that arrive in a spam email, text or instant
Preview a link's web address before you click on it to make sure it is
going to an established site. To check a link, move your mouse pointer
over it — but don't click it — and the address should appear on the
bottom bar of your web browser. Never download or click anything from
an unknown source.
Stay away from vendors that offer prices well below the norm. Don't
believe anything that's too good to be true.
Make sure to use trusted wi-fi networks. Don't check bank accounts or
shop online if you're not sure the network is safe.
If you think you may be a victim of cybercrime, visit the McAfee
Cybercrime Response Unit to assess your risks and learn what you can do
next at www.mcafee.com/cru.
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Cassie Prosper / Jennifer Rideout