2012 Top 10 Online Holiday Scams

Online holiday sales are expected to total as much as $96 billion this year, experts predict. Unfortunately, a record number of cybercriminals will also be hard at work running various scams aimed at separating you from your hard-earned dollars. If you plan on shopping online this season, you may want to be aware of the following popular holiday scams, courtesy of Stu Sjouwerman at Cyberheist News.

10) ‘The Charity Tricksters’. The holidays are traditionally the time for giving. It’s also the time that cyber criminals try to pry money out of people that mean well. But making donations to the wrong site could mean you are funding cybercrime or even terrorism. So, watch out for any communications from charities that ask for your contribution, (phone, email, text, tweets, snail mail and even people ringing your door bell) and make sure they are legit and show their ID. It is safest to only donate to charities you already know, and refuse all the rest.

9) ‘The Grinch E-Card Greetings’. Happy Holidays! Your email has an attachment that looks like an e-greeting card, pretty pictures and all. You think that this must be from a friend. Nope, not so. Malicious e-cards are sent by the millions, and especially at the office, never open these things as they might infect your workstation.

8) ‘The Fake Gift Card Trick’. Internet crooks promote a fake gift card through social media but what they really are after is your information, which they then sell to other cyber criminals who use it for Identity Theft. Here is an example: A recent Facebook scam offered a “free $1,000 Best Buy gift card” to the first 20,000 people who signed up for a Best Buy fan page, which was a malicious copy of the original.

7) ‘The Copied Site’. Bad guys build complete copies of well-known sites, send you emails promoting great deals, sell products, take the credit card, but never deliver the goods. These sites live only a few days and the money usually goes abroad. Your credit card company will refund the purchase, but apart from not getting your gift(s) your card number is now compromised and will be sold and used by cyber criminals. Always check for the https:// rather than just http:// .

6) ‘The DM-Scam’. You tweet about a holiday gift you are trying to find, and you get a direct message (DM) from another twitter user offering to sell you one. Stop – Look – Think, because this could very well be a sophisticated scam. If you do not know that person, be -very- careful before you continue and never pay up front.

5) ‘The Extra Holiday-money Fraud’. You always need some extra money during this season, so cyber fraudsters are offering work-from-home scams. The most innocent of these make you fill out a form where you give out confidential information like your Social Security number which will get your identity stolen. The worst of them offer you work where you launder money from a cyberheist which can get you into major trouble.

4) ‘The Fake Recession Relief.’ Internet swindlers target people that are vulnerable due to the recession with pay-in-advance scams and credit offers. Spam emails advertise “prequalified, super low-interest” credit cards and loans if you pay a processing fee, which goes straight into the scammer’s pocket.

3) ‘The Search Term Trap’. Bad guys do their research and find out what people want. They then build a site that professes to have the item. They push that site high onto the search engines and you might click on that link. But the site contains malware and will infect your PC. Make sure that your web-browser is fully updated, and will warn you if it sees that the site is unsafe.

2) ‘The Evil Wi-Fi Twin’. You bring your laptop and go to the mall to scout for gifts. Then you check if you get it cheaper somewhere online. But the bad guys are there too, shopping for your credit card number! They put out a Wi-Fi signal that looks just like a free one you always use. Choose the wrong Wi-Fi and the hacker now sits in the middle and steals your credit card data while you buy online. When you use a Wi-Fi connection in a public place, it is better not to use your credit card.

1) ‘The Black Friday Racket’. Black Friday is the start of great holiday shopping deals, unless they are too good to be true and you get tricked into buying an iPad for a 90% discount. Be extra careful with online buying starting the day after Thanksgiving! Read more at scambook.com.

Editor’s Note: Are you aware of a holiday scam not mentioned on this list? Let your fellow readers know in the comments section below…