Lots of people will do their shopping online this season to avoid crowds and congested roads. But those who do must be very careful to avoid falling victim to cyber crooks taking advantage of the holiday rush.
There are 12 dangerous online scams that consumers should be aware of this holiday season, ranging from iPad offer scams to fake gift cards to holiday downloads.
1. iPad offer scams – With Apple products at the top of many a Christmas wish list, scammers are busy sending bogus offers for free iPads. In the spam version of the scam, consumers are asked to buy other products and provide their credit card number to get the free gadget.
2. Help, I’ve Been Robbed! scam – This travel-themed scam sends bogus distress messages to family and friends requesting money to be wired or transferred so the stranded party can get home. This scam is expected to increase during the busy travel season.
3. Fake gift cards – Social media sites are used to promote fake gift card offers with the goal of stealing consumers’ information, which is then sold n the black market or used for identity theft. One recent Facebook scam offered a free $1,000 Best Buy gift card to the first 20,000 who signed up for a Best Buy fan page, which was a spoofed site. To qualify, those who signed up had to provide personal information and take quizzes.
4. Holiday job offers – With the extra spending that comes during the holidays, more people are seeking opportunities to make some extra cash. Twitter scams have been offering dangerous links to high-paying, work-at-home jobs asking for personal information.
5. Smishing – Cyber crooks are now sending phishing text messages, also known as smiting. These texts appear to come from a consumer’s bank or an online retailer, saying there is a problem with the account. To resolve the issue, the user must call a number to verify his or her account information.
6. Suspicious holiday rentals – During high-volume travel times, consumers often look online for affordable holiday rentals. To cash in on that, crooks post fake holiday rental sites that ask for down payments on properties by credit card or wire.
7. Recession scams – Scammers exploit vulnerable consumers with recession-related scams, such as pay-in-advance credit schemes. The scams involve the advertisement of low-interest loans and credit cards if the recipient pays a processing fee.
8. Grinch greetings – E-cards are convenient and are environmentally-friendly. But criminals create fake versions with links to viruses and other malware.
9. Low price traps – If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Shoppers should be cautious about products priced much lower than compared to their competitors.
10. Charity scams – It’s traditionally the time for giving, but criminals also prey upon the generous. Common scams include phone calls and spam asking users to donate to veterans’ charities, children’s causes and relief funds for some catastrophe. Give directly to the charity only, not through some outside agency or representative.
11. Dangerous holiday downloads – Holiday-themed screensavers, jingles and animations are an easy way for scammers to spread viruses and other computer threats.
12. Free Wi-Fi – Many travel during the holidays, and they use free Wi-Fi at airports and hotels. Thieves know this and target these places, looking for places to steal personal information.
When it comes to holiday identity theft, it pays to be Grinchy – don’t let criminals get the upper hand.