Seven More Scams You Need To Know About

Part Two of Security in Online Holiday Shopping

Sunday, December 19, 2010 by DrJBHL | Discussion: Personal Computing

 

Here's Part One if you didn't see it.

Beth Jones is a senior threat researcher with Sophos.

She stated to PCWorld (another of Doc's faves), "The two-week mark before Christmas is when things start to ramp up out of control. Spammers and malware authors focus on when the attention is going to be there. That's generally two weeks before a holiday."

You don't need to be shopping online to get caught in one of their traps. Even checking out email or spending time on Facebook and Twitter has its risks for the unaware. Here are seven holiday humbugs to avoid."

 

You can read about them HERE.

 

"Holiday Scam 1: "Free iPad Giveaway!"

 

Apple's recently-released iPad is a popular item this holiday season, so naturally criminals are using that to hook people.

 

I have seen so many 'Get a free iPad by filling out a survey' ads already," said Jones. "Kinect (for the gaming system Xbox 360) is the other one."

 

But usually these offers are just a ploy to get you to a site where you are typically asked for credit card numbers 'to cover a small shipping charge' or other sensitive information in order to receive the prize. Your credit information is used by the con artist for nefarious purposes, and you get nothing. Stay away from these kinds of offers, said Jones.

 

"Apple is not going to give out a free iPad. They are not going to authorize anyone to give out a free iPad."

 

Researchers at McAfee Labs also found this ruse running rampant on Facebook and Twitter.

 

"In the social media version of the scam, users take a quiz to win a free iPad and must supply their cell phone number to receive the results. In actuality they are signed up for a cell phone scam that costs $10 a week. "

 

Holiday Scam 2: Fake Gift Cards

 

"There seems to be a big-affiliate scam going around of free gift cards," noted Jones.

 

But these gift card offers are really just an identity theft gimmick in disguise with the goal of stealing your information to sell if off for profit. Avoid them. Retailers are not giving out free gift cards just because you fill out a survey.

 

McAfee researchers said "One 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 look-a-like. To apply for the gift card they had to provide personal information and take a series of quizzes. "

 

Holiday Scam 3: Stripped Gift Cards

 

Gift cards have become a common go-to present for many folks. But now criminals have figured out a way to render them worthless, according to Tom Browning, vice president of corporate compliance and Chief Security Officer with AlliedBarton.

 

"With the gift cards, the mission is to sell, sell, sell," said Bornwing. "So they are displayed in places that are easily accessible to people. You'll often see these things right on a front counter or in a display rack in a grocery store."

 

But their accessibility also makes it easy for criminals to take advantage. Browning said many use a scanner that can be purchased cheaply to read the code behind the magnetic or scratch-off strip on the back of the card. With that, and the card number on the front, they can steal the value of the card. This leaves the buyer who purchased the card legally with a worthless piece of plastic.

 

Even if a card isn't preloaded, a thief can steal the card number and security code and call the 800 number shown on the card every few days to check the balance. Once a shopper purchases the card and loads it with a dollar amount, the thief can spend it before the purchaser does, said Browning.

 

Browning advises trying to safeguard any gift cards you purchase by buying them from stores which keep them behind a register. He also recommends checking with the cashier when purchasing the card to ensure there is a valid balance before you leave the store. And look over the card yourself, he said. Does it have creases or markings? Is the strip on the back in perfect condition? If the card looks at all suspicious, pass it up.

 

"I wouldn't say don't purchase any gift card," said Browning. "They make a great gift alternative. But the chance that they have been tampered with when they are out in a place accessible to everyone is high. Hold yourself accountable by taking the proper precautions before you buy." (Also see Facebook sues over free gift card, dislike button scams.

 

Holiday Scam 4: "You're Preapproved for This Credit Card!"

 

In tough times, consumers may be particularly vulnerable to this one since credit is difficult to obtain for folks without a job or with bad credit. But these credit offers are often advance credit schemes, according to McAfee Labs. Such offers arrive in the form of spam emails advertising prequalified, low-interest loans and credit cards if the recipient pays a processing fee--which then goes directly into the scammer's pocket.

 

Holiday Scam 5: Bad E-Cards

 

Malware-laden e-cards are a "holiday tradition in and of itself now," said Jones. She traces it back several years, but recalls a really bad year in 2007. "They (malware authors) were sending out variants for a botnet called 'Dorf' that year," she said "We made a lot of jokes about Santa and his Dorfs."

 

But it's not very funny when you receive what looks like an e-greeting from a friend and instead end up with a computer infection. Unfortunately, said Jones, it is best just to avoid opening it unless you can get absolute confirmation from the card's supposed source.

 

"It's gotten to the point where it's so easy to spoof Hallmark.com that you really do need to exercise caution. I would email the friend and ask 'Did you actually send me this?' just as you would with any unexpected attachment from a friend."

 

Holiday Scam 6: Bad Links to Holiday Sales, Job Offers, etc.

 

Links to opportunities for job offers abound on Twitter. Cash-strapped users looking for some help with income this holiday season may find the offers too good to ignore. But McAfee researchers say most are scams that serve up dangerous links that ask for your personal information, such as your email address, home address and Social Security number to apply for the fake job.

 

And holiday sales, while common and often legitimate, are also easy ways to send bad links, said Jones.

 

"Make sure you check shortened links before you click on them," she advised. "Bitly, for example, offers a service to preview where the link is going if you add a plus sign to the end of the link you're questioning."

 

Holiday Scam 7: Fake Charities

 

Some estimates put the number of fake profiles on Facebook at as high as 40 percent. And it isn't just individual profiles that are created fraudulently. Fake business pages are also a problem on the social network site. And fake charity pages are a holiday-season hazard as generous givers look for a place to put their donation.

 

If you want to ensure you are donating to the legitimate charity, seek out the organization's site directly, said Jones. And ignore all email solicitations for donations, as well as the links the messages may contain.

 

"Charities typically do not randomly sell emails looking for donations," said Jones. "Most still prefer snail mail." ".

 

Another site I'd recommend on is safeshopping.org  which is published by the American Bar Ass'n. It has some very good tips for safe shopping and a complaints option.

 

I used the above as is, because it's so important to me that you all be safe during this season of joy. I hope this prevents unnecessary pain and loss during these hard times, and helps protect you, my WinCustomize family from harm.

 

First Previous Page 1 of 2 Next Last
coffeegrinder
Reply #1 Sunday, December 19, 2010 6:01 AM

Yes, things really accelerate at this time of year. It's amazing the number of deceased relations I never new I had have left

me a fortune!  Twelve emails so far this week. 

 

Starfire7
Reply #2 Sunday, December 19, 2010 6:13 AM

Thank you for  your fine article warning us of the various frauds going on.   Such a shame though that during this wonderful season which is really the season for giving,  that twisted minds are using to turn into the season for taking! And your kind service, free of charge, is a good sign that there are still good folks around and good sites too, like this one!

 God bless you and have a wonderful Christmas!

David Broomfield

Uvah
Reply #3 Sunday, December 19, 2010 6:26 AM

Kudos Doc and good lookin' out. Stuff like that in my e-mail I just delete. I keep getting one from a guy wanting to 'sell' me free photoshop videos. Imagine that. lol I don't even bother lookin' at them. Delete ... delete ... delete.

DrJBHL
Reply #4 Sunday, December 19, 2010 6:29 AM

coffeegrinder
Yes, things really accelerate at this time of year. It's amazing the number of deceased relations I never new I had have left

me a fortune!  Twelve emails so far this week. 

 

From all your Nigerian cousins, no doubt.

Starfire7
Thank you for  your fine article warning us of the various frauds going on.   Such a shame though that during this wonderful season which is really the season for giving,  that twisted minds are using to turn into the season for taking! And your kind service, free of charge, is a good sign that there are still good folks around and good sites too, like this one!

 God bless you and have a wonderful Christmas!

David Broomfield

Thank you, David. I celebrate Hanukkah but value your wishes the same. Please allow me to wish you and your family Holiday Blessings...of whichever flavor you enjoy!

Uvah
Reply #5 Sunday, December 19, 2010 8:09 AM

I am being remiss. DrJBHL .... Happy Hanukkah my friend. In my eyes all are equal.

DrJBHL
Reply #6 Sunday, December 19, 2010 8:20 AM

Thanks for the holiday wishes, Uvah. Same to you.

ElanaAhova
Reply #7 Sunday, December 19, 2010 6:56 PM

Thank you for the extremely helpful info.  May I add one other flavor of scam.  Some 'people' on dating sites are actually scammers that suck you in, then play on your heart strings.  It has happened to me twice now in the past six months: once on a generic site, and once on a Jewish site.  The emails are generic, sometimes repeated.  The phone calls are never responded to.  Then, out of no where, I get a call, and he is desperately in need of money for his son's 'foot' operation.  He is supposedly an engineer that just moved from USA to England.

Both individuals claimed to be engineers, sent VERY similar emails, and both had a son who needed foot surgery in england.  Guess engineering firms in england don't have medical insurance?

Be careful!

 

happy holidays, all.

 

navigatsio
Reply #8 Sunday, December 19, 2010 7:08 PM

If I don't know ya, you'll probably get deleted, I don't open attachments, I'll never send a dime for the ten million you need to get out of your country, I don't care that I won Neverland lottery and I never punch the monkey. Now probably someone will read this and spam me....

DrJBHL
Reply #9 Sunday, December 19, 2010 7:09 PM

ElanaAhova, sorry that happened to you. England has the National Health, so I figure it was a scam. Thanks for the info...and better luck in the future.

Uvah
Reply #10 Sunday, December 19, 2010 8:36 PM

If it comes from some one you don't know delete it. Even if it is from some one you know ask that person if they sent it to you. Always better safe than sorry.

Darvin3
Reply #11 Monday, December 20, 2010 1:46 AM

I can't believe there are people out there who are still falling for this stuff.  

I can understand stripped gift cards (that's really the retailer's fault), and maybe a sophisticated email spoofer.  The rest of it, though... just refer to the golden rule:  unsolicited offers should always be ignored.  This is what I teach all my less computer-savvy relatives.

RedneckDude
Reply #12 Monday, December 20, 2010 2:28 AM

 Thanks Doc! 

Uvah
Reply #13 Monday, December 20, 2010 4:51 AM

unsolicited offers should always be ignored.

YUP.

DrJBHL
Reply #14 Monday, December 20, 2010 5:14 AM

unsolicited offers should always be ignored. [/quote]

A good thing to learn.

[quote who="RedneckDude" reply="12" id="2851100"] Thanks Doc! 

Welcome, Jim.  I'm looking forward to your next "Spotlight" Post!

 

mrs_starkers
Reply #15 Monday, December 20, 2010 8:41 AM

Thanks for the thumbs up there Doc

Dr Guy
Reply #16 Monday, December 20, 2010 8:56 AM

Doc, we differ on our favorites, but not by much.  I prefer PC Magazine.  PC World seems geared more for the novice than the experienced, as I found it lacks depth.  But otherwise is informative.

Great Tips!  And Happy Hanukkah!

DrJBHL
Reply #17 Monday, December 20, 2010 8:58 AM

Welcome, Bonzette.

How be the Cap'n? I miss the old reprobate.

 

Dr Guy
Doc, we differ on our favorites, but not by much.  I prefer PC Magazine.  PC World seems geared more for the novice than the experienced, as I found it lacks depth.  But otherwise is informative.

Great Tips!  And Happy Hanukkah!

Love PCMag also, mate. And thanks for the wishes...best of holidays to you as well!

ElanaAhova
Reply #18 Monday, December 20, 2010 9:30 AM

Hi Doc,

Thanks for the well wishes.  The really sneaky thing about the "Nigerian scam migrated to marriage sites" is that they are using real names of real people.  They take names of professionals (from linked in - or other professional sites), and masquerade  as that person on the marriage / dating site.  Seems this is a variation on  the 'pretending to be from a reputable company' scam directed at the heart.

Direct contact only happens when they "move' oversea.  Guess it protects them from USA laws.

The price we pay, for an open society.

Again, thanks for the well wishes.

 

DrJBHL
Reply #19 Monday, December 20, 2010 9:45 AM

Hiya, ElanaAhova... Yet another reason to be as private as possible, or alternatively not to believe in the tooth fairy. If it looks too good to be true, it generally is. Also, If one has never met the person face to face, the answer to "Oh, my son needs a vital, lifesaving operation." is, "Good luck. So sorry about your son." and then block the person.

MottiKhan
Reply #20 Monday, December 20, 2010 12:58 PM

+1 karma.  Thanks for the info.  I just bought a boatload of prepaid Visa cards to give out and only checked to see if the tear off strip behind the packaging was in tact.  I found one with the number exposed and didn't get that one.

I wasn't aware of any scanners that could read through the packaging.  I hope these all work, but I'll warn the recipients to use them right away and I'll keep the receipts until they're used.  I hope Walmart will replace any that might have been scanned. 

 

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