McAfee Warns of the Twelve Scams of Christmas

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge

The holiday season is approaching and so are the scammers. Already they rub their hands with glee, ready to traumatize consumers and businesses. McAfee, one of the world’s largest dedicated security technology companies, has released its “12 scams of Christmas” list to forewarn and forearm against the dozen most dangerous online scams this holiday season.

Topping the list is mobile malware, McAfee notes that a recent National Retail Federation survey discovered that 52.6 percent of U.S. consumers who own a smartphone will be using their device for holiday-shopping. “Malware targeted at mobile devices is on the rise, and Android smartphones are most at risk. McAfee cites a 76 percent increase in malware targeted at Android devices in the second quarter of 2011 over the first, making it the most targeted smartphone platform,” the company reports. “New malware has recently been found that targets QR codes, a digital barcode that consumers might scan with their smartphone to find good deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, or just to learn about products they want to buy.”

At number two is malicious mobile applications-- mobile apps that steal information from smartphones, or send out expensive text messages without a user’s consent. “Dangerous apps are usually offered for free, and masquerade as fun applications, such as games. For example, last year, 4.6 million Android smartphone users downloaded a suspicious wallpaper app that collected and transmitted user data to a site in China,” McAfee says.

Rounding out the top three are phony Facebook promotions and contests. “Who doesn't want to win some free prizes or get a great deal around the holidays? Unfortunately, cyberscammers know that these are attractive lures and they have sprinkled Facebook with phony promotions and contests aimed at gathering personal information. A recent scam advertised two free airline tickets, but required participants to fill out multiple surveys requesting personal information,” the company states.

Here are rest of the top ten, as reported by McAfee in its press release.

Scareware, or fake antivirus software. Scareware is the fake antivirus software that tricks someone into believing that their computer is at risk--or already infected--so they agree to download and pay for phony software. This is one of the most common and dangerous Internet threats today, with an estimated one million victims falling for this scam each day. In October 2010, McAfee reported that scareware represented 23% of all dangerous Internet links, and it has been resurgent in recent months.

Holiday screensavers. Bringing holiday cheer to your home or work PC sounds like a fun idea to get into the holiday spirit, but be careful. 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.

Mac malware. Until recently, Mac users felt pretty insulated from online security threats, since most were targeted at PCs. But with the growing popularity of Apple products, for both business and personal use, cybercriminals have designed a new wave of malware directed squarely at Mac users. According to McAfee Labs(TM), as of late 2010, there were 5,000 pieces of malware targeting Macs, and this number is increasing by 10 percent month on month.

Holiday phishing scams. Phishing is the act of tricking consumers into revealing information or performing actions they wouldn't normally do online using phony email or social media posts. Cyberscammers know that most people are busy around the holidays so they tailor their emails and social messages with holiday themes in the hopes of tricking recipients into revealing personal information.


This is a great list to keep

This is a great list to keep handy this Christmas season. It is true that there are criminals out there who are just waiting for the online Christmas season to start so they can steal.

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