request info email to friend
Avoiding Holiday Internet Scams
For Internet scammers and phishers and con artists, the holidays are an excellent chance to take advantage of the general feeling of good will in order to separate some folks from their cash or personal information. McAfee, the computer security company, lists several holiday scams to avoid:
These and similar scams occur all year-round, of course, and you can use the same tools to protect yourself at the holidays that you use the rest of the year. Start by having updated security software installed on your computer, including protection against viruses and spyware as well as a firewall. A good security program can keep many of the malware, spyware and keystroke-reading dangers off your computer.
- Charity phishing. This is the time of year when many folks feel charitable, and scammers tap into this with fake emails that appear to be from real charities but actually link to fake websites that take your money and run.
- Holiday e-cards. These scammers say someone has sent you a holiday e-card but you have to click on an attachment to see the card. When you click on the attachment, the link automatically puts malware on your computer.
- Email banking. You get an email that looks like it is from your bank, asking you to provide financial information such as your account number, password, etc. The email might warn that your account will be closed if you don’t comply. But if you provide that information, the scammers can use it to raid your account.
- Fake invoice. These scammers take advantage of the fact that many people shop online during the holidays. In this scam, you get an email that looks like it is from a shipper such as FedEx or UPS or from the U.S. Customs Service. The email contains a fake invoice or delivery notification, and asks you to provide credit card information or open a Customs form. Then the scammers steal your credit card information or use the Customs form to infect your computer with malware.
- Friend request. You get a message that seems to be from a popular social networking site saying you have a new friend request and, filled with the spirit of the season, you click on the link -– which then infects your computer with malware including software that can record your keystrokes and steal your passwords.
- Seasonal software. You might be tempted to download a free Santa screensaver or other holiday software. But beware: You could actually be downloading malware or spyware.
- Job-related emails. This scam occurs year-round, but especially during the holidays when lots of people want to pick up a little extra money. You get an email about a high-paying job or a work-from-home opportunity. Then when you respond with your personal information, the scammers use it to steal from you.
Then be sure to shop only at websites that protect your information with encryption. You can identify these sites because their address starts with https rather than http. In addition, don’t give out extraneous information to a shopping site. You will need to provide a credit card number, of course, but don’t give out your Social Security number, bank account number or other financial information.
Strengthen your passwords. Use passwords that include a combination of letters and numbers, and use different passwords for different accounts. Change your passwords regularly, and never give them out to someone else.
Even if an email looks like it comes from a legitimate entity such as your bank or a charity, be careful. Check with your bank before you send any information. And if you want to make an online contribution to a charity, go directly to the charity’s website rather than clicking on a link in an email.
Be smart. Don’t click on links from people you don’t know, and stay out of Internet sites if you are unsure of their safety.
Finally, remember that if something seems too good to be true, the chances are that it is. That email about a job making lots of money with little effort probably will pay off only for the scammer who sent it.