Dec 14 2009
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McAfee warns users against holiday scams
Mcafee listed the "Twelve Scams of Christmas" - the 12 most dangerous online scams that consumers can fall victim to this year.
According to Consumer Reports' 2009 State of the Net Survey, cybercriminals have cheated $8 billion (Dh29.3bn) from consumers in the past two years, and McAfee has warned them not to fall victim to the top scams this year.
"Cybercriminals use their best schemes during the holidays to steal people's money, credit card information, social security number and identity," said Jeff Green, Senior Vice-President of McAfee Labs.
"These thieves follow seasonal trends and create holiday-related websites, scams and other convincing e-mails that can trick even the most cautious users."
During the holiday season, hackers take advantage of citizens' generosity by sending e-mails that appear to be from legitimate charitable organisations. In reality, they are fake websites designed to steal donations, credit card information and the identities of donors.
Cybercriminals also often send fake invoices and delivery notifications appearing to be from Federal Express, UPS or the US Customs Service. They e-mail consumers asking for credit card details to credit back the account, or require users to open an online invoice or customs form to receive the package.
Once completed, the person's information is stolen or malware is automatically installed on their computer.
Social networking becomes another platform for cybercriminals to take advantage by sending authentic-looking "New Friend Request" e-mails from social networking sites. Internet users should beware that clicking on links in these e-mails can automatically install malware on computers and steal personal information. Cyber thieves cash in on consumers who send holiday e-cards in an effort to be environmentally conscious.
Last holiday season, McAfee Labs discovered a worm masked as Hallmark e-cards and McDonald's and Coca-Cola holiday promotions. Holiday-themed PowerPoint e-mail attachments are also popular among cybercriminals. Be careful what you click on. McAfee Labs recently uncovered a new holiday campaign that leads shoppers to malware-ridden sites offering "discounted" luxury gifts from Cartier, Gucci, and Tag Heuer. Cybercriminals even use fraudulent logos of the Better Business Bureau to trick shoppers into buying products they never receive.
Forrester Research predicts online holiday sales will increase this year, as more bargain hunters turn to the web for deals.
While users shop and surf on open hotspots, hackers can spy on their activity in an attempt to steal their personal information. McAfee tells users never to shop online from a public computer or on an open Wi-Fi network.
During the holidays, hackers create fraudulent holiday-related web ites for people searching for a holiday ringtone or wallpaper, Christmas carol lyrics or a festive screensaver.
Downloading holiday-themed files may infect one's computer with spyware, adware or other malware.
McAfee found one Christmas carol download site that led searchers to adware, spyware and other potentially unwanted programs.
Scammers often lurk on auction sites during the holiday season. Buyers should beware of auction deals that appear too good to be true, because often times these purchases never reach their new owner.
Cybercriminals trick consumers into divulging their bank details by sending official-looking e-mails from financial institutions.
They ask users to confirm their account information, including a user name and password, with a warning that their account will become invalid if they do not comply. Then they often sell this information through an underground online black market.
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