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'12 Scams of Christmas' revealed by McAfee


Online security company McAfee has warned that consumers are under threat from cybercriminals and need to take necessary precautions over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period this year.

Britons will spend £10.8bn online this Christmas (IMRG), which gives scammers a huge opportunity to fleece the public and earn fast cash, steal personal information and spread malicious software.

“It’s important that consumers realise that the potential for identity theft and fraud increases when sharing personal information and bank details using smartphones, tablets and PCs that are under protected,” said Samantha Swift, online security expert at McAfee.

McAfee’s 12 Scams of Christmas are:

1) Not-So-Merry Mobile Apps - Official-looking software for Christmas shopping, including those that feature celebrity or company endorsements, could be malicious, designed to steal or send out your personal data. A recent report from McAfee identified a new family of mobile malware that allows a cybercriminal to get around the digital signature required to validate apps on Android devices.

2) Holiday Mobile SMS Scams - A widespread piece of malicious code known as FakeInstaller, tricks Android users into thinking it is a legitimate installer for an application and then quickly takes advantage of the unrestricted access to smartphones, sending SMS messages to premium rate numbers without the user’s consent. No doubt Android handsets will be popular this Christmas, so consumers should ensure their gift also comes with appropriate security software.

3) Hot Holiday Gift Scams - Advertisements that offer deals on must-have items, such as these Playstation 4 and Xbox scams on Facebook, might be too good to be true. Clever crooks will post dangerous links and phony contests on social media sites to entice viewers to reveal personal information or download malware onto their devices.

4) Seasonal Travel Scams - Phony travel deal links and notifications are common, as are hackers waiting to steal your identity upon arrival. Around 1,000 holiday scams took place in Britain last year, costing holidaymakers more than £1.5million, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).

5) Dangerous E-Seasons Greetings - Legitimate-looking e-cards wishing friends “Season’s Greetings” can cause unsuspecting users to download “Merry Malware” such as a Trojan or other virus after clicking a link or opening an attachment.

6) Deceptive Online Games - Before your kids are glued to their newly downloaded games, be wary of the games’ sources. Many sites offering full-version downloads of Grand Theft Auto, for example, are often fake and laden with malware, and integrated social media pages can expose gamers, too.

7) Shipping Notifications Shams - Phony shipping notifications can appear to be from a mailing service alerting you to an update on your shipment, when in reality, they are scams carrying malware and other harmful software designed to infect your computer or device. With an estimated 20,000 click-and-collect points across the UK this Christmas and increasingly flexible delivery options, consumers should be on guard against cyber crooks capitalising on delivery notification.

8) Bogus Gift Cards - An easy go-to gift for the holidays, gift cards can be promoted via deceptive ads, especially on Facebook, Twitter, or other social sites, that claim to offer exclusive deals on gift cards or packages of cards and can lead consumers to purchase phony ones online.

9) Holiday SMiShing - During the holidays, SMiShing is commonly seen in gift card messages, where scammers pose as banks or credit card companies asking you to confirm information for “security purposes”.

10) Fake Charities - Donating to charities is common this time of year for many looking to help the less fortunate. However, cybercriminals capitalise on this generosity, especially during natural disaster events, and set up fake charity sites and pocket the donations – for example, this email scam made the fraudster behind it £214k.

11) Romance Scams - with more than 9 million Britons now using a number of dating sites, it can be difficult to know exactly who the person is behind the screen. Many messages sent from an online friend can include phishing scams, where the person accesses your personal information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details.

12) Phony E-Tailers - The convenience of online shopping does not go unnoticed by cyber scrooges. With so many people planning to shop online, scammers set up phony e-commerce sites to steal your money and personal data. In October this year, it was revealed that one in every five consumers looking for a bargain online were getting duped by phony retail sites.

Published on Friday 29 November by Editorial Assistant

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