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Holiday alert Steer clear of CyberScrooge
DULLES, Va. (12/4/12)--Online scams are more popular than ever during the holidays, putting online shoppers and mobile device users at increasing risk.

A study conducted in September by security company McAfee revealed that, of the 70% of consumers who plan to shop online this holiday season, 24% plan to hand over personal information in return for getting something of value (Huffington Post Nov. 22).

Of those planning to use smartphones or tablets to buy holiday gifts, more than half (54%) plan to use apps. Here's the humbug: Cybercriminals target mobile users through malicious applications, and 28% of smartphone and/or tablet owners admit they don't pay attention to app permissions.

Expect cybercriminals to cast a wider net beyond online shopping sites. Crooks target your credit card information and send viruses from text messages, fake classified ads  and bogus charities.

Even social media sites require vigilance; some contain gift card offers claiming to be from major retailers. Don't bite--the offers typically are scams to gain access to your social media account, opening the doors to any accounts you've tied that account to, or to post illegitimate offers on your behalf ( Nov. 27).

Here are just a few of the most dangerous online scams to watch out for, courtesy of McAfee:

  • Social media scams: Be cautious about raffle contests, fan page deals advertising the hottest holiday gifts, installing apps just to get a discount, and Twitter ads using blind and shortened links that could be malicious.
  • Freebie offers: Steer clear of "Free iPad" offers or contests. The hype around iPhone 5, iPad Mini and other hot items is one trick cybercrooks use to get you to let your guard down and click on a dangerous link.
  • Skype message scare: A new Skype message scam--taking advantage of those connecting with loved ones during the holidays--attempts to infect your computer and hold your files for ransom. A change in the password-reset feature is keeping crooks at bay--for now (Yahoo! Nov. 14).
  • Bogus gift cards: Don't buy gift cards online from third parties; the cards may be fraudulent.
  • Dangerous e-cards: That quick holiday greeting in your in-box might not be legitimate. Some e-cards contain malicious spyware or viruses that infect your computer if you click the link to view the greeting.
For a complete list of the "12 Scams of Christmas" and tips to protect yourself, use the link.

For more information, read "Protect Your Mailbox, ID This Holiday Season" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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