Sunday, November 29, 2009

The scam-happiest time of the year

With cyber-Monday tomorrow, and the ever-increasing number of people doing their Christmas shopping online, McAfee - the security software company - has provided a list of the twelve most common ways holiday cybercriminals scam the rest of us. Here they are:

1. Charity Phishing. It is more blessed to give than to recieve, but before you give, make sure the people receiving it are who you think they are.

2. Fake Invoices from Delivery Services. It is very difficult to ship COD these days, so unless cousin Joe from Jersey told you he was shipping you something that way, don't pay without calling the shipping company - from the number in the phone-book. And if you don't remember sending it, don't pay for it without double-checking.

3. Social Networking. Scammers send legit looking “friend requests” that contain links designed to infect your computer. However tempting it might be to have one more friend than your boss, don’t open links from “friends” you’ve never heard of.

4. Holiday eCards. Everyone loves a nice holiday card. What you should know, however, is that some of the most destructive holiday viruses have been attached to fake eCards. Never open eCards from unknown senders. Frankly, I'd think twice before opening an eCard from someone I knew without making sure they'd actually sent it first.

5. Luxury Jewelry. Man, you can find some incredible bargains online. And scammers take full advantage of that fact by offering even more incredible deals than you can usually find during the holidays. Of course, the deals they offer get you an empty wallet and maybe a cheap (disgustingly obviously cheap) piece of costume jewelry if you're lucky.

6. Online Identity Theft. I love shopping online. Quick, easy and convenient. But always make sure you're shopping a reputable site, and never shop from Starbucks - or at least never purchase - while at Starbucks, the library, or other public wifi locations. It's surprisingly easy to access other computers over an open wireless network.

7. Christmas Carol Lyrics. If you don't already know that ring-tone and mp3 download sites can be a hotbed for malware, you do now. Before downloading anything from one of these sites make sure they are legit. If they are offering the latest Taylor Swift ringtones for free, run away.

8. Work from Home. Beware of e-mails that offer jobs you haven’t applied for or work at home “opportunities.” After they steal your info and a setup fee, you’ll be right back where you started with a few extra headaches.

9. Auction Site Fraud. Internet scammers will post unbelievable deals in hopes of getting an unlucky bidder to bite. That 50" LCD TV for $299 "Buy it Now" will either never arrive or it will arrive in pieces, or as a 13" black & white CRT television.

10. Password Stealing. Change your password often. People can look over your shoulder, from the table next to you, or even using cell phone cameras to record you type.

11. E-mail Banking Scams. Beware of any e-mail that asks for your banking information. I don't know of a bank that will ask for you for your information via email. If I find one that does, I will post it here and give it tell you to avoid it.

12. Ransom Scams. If hackers gain access to your computer through any of the means listed in this article, they may demand a ransom to get your computer back in working condition. They won't call it that, of course. They will say that they are selling you the means to remove what the malware you downloaded.


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