Beware the 12 Scams of Christmas

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Holiday revelers beware: real-life Scrooges and Grinches are out to steal Christmas.

Computer security firm McAfee today warned of the numerous ways that scammers will attempt to take advantage of your holiday cheer this season. That shouldn’t come as a surprise: a lot of money will change hands this season, from the projected $466 billion in retail sales to all the money we’ll spend to travel. And that will provide countless advantages for scammers to try to get a cut of the action.

So what sort of scams can we expect? Topping the list is mobile malware, which has been on the rise: A McAfee report earlier this year found that incidents of mobile malware rose 62% in 2010. And that’s particularly scary given how much mobile phones will be integrated into the shopping experience this year, with more than half of smartphone owners saying they plan to use their phone to help them shop this season.

While iPhone users probably don’t have much to fear from mobile malware, Android owners should be particularly concerned, especially if they’ll be using their phones to make purchases or scan QR codes. McAfee warns that scammers will use both mobile malware and malicious apps to attempt to separate you from your money.

It’s not just smartphone owners who have something to fear this season, either. McAfee warns that scammers will try to trick people into giving up personal information with phony coupons and offers – for instance, offering a free iPad or a coupon code in exchange for personal and financial data. And you should also be wary of phony notices that claim to be from UPS, asking you to enter personal information to pick up a package.

Here are McAfee’s 12 scams of Christmas:

1. Mobile Malware – Mainly affecting Android devices, this may include malicious QR codes.
2. Malicious Mobile Application – While many shoppers will download apps to help them finds holiday deals, some aren’t what they seem, and could transmit your data.
3. Phony Facebook Promotions and Contests – McAfee warns that scammers have planted phony promotions and contests on Facebook that could swipe your personal information when you fill out the “entry form.”
4. Scareware – If all this talk of malware is putting the fear of God in you, choose your antivirus software carefully, lest you wind up downloading and paying for phony software.
5. Holiday Screensavers – Find a different way to decorate your computer, as there are instances of Christmas-themed screensavers that are actually malware. And beware of fake e-cards, too.
6. Mac Malware – Yes, even Macs can get malware, with McAfee finding 5,000 pieces of Mac-targeting malware as of late 2010.
7. Holiday Phishing Scams – Phony letters from UPS or your bank could take advantage of holiday commerce to get you to give up personal data.
8. Online Coupon Scams – If you plan to use coupons to save this holiday season, choose carefully and only deal with reputable sites.
9. Mystery Shopper Scams – Being a mystery shopper may sound like a fun job, but if you get a text offering you one of these gigs, be warned that it’s probably a scammer who will ask for your personal information in exchange for “hiring” you.
10. Hotel “Wrong Transaction” Malware Emails – McAfee cites one scam in which the victim gets an email ostensibly from a hotel, asking them to fill out a phony refund form to correct an alleged “wrong transaction.”
11. “It” Gift Scams – Whatever the hot holiday item turns out to be, expect scam websites to offer it at a discount – in exchange for your data, of course.
12. “I’m Away From Home” Scammers – If you’re planning on traveling for the holidays, you might want to reconsider telling everyone about it on social networks, lest a burglar take notice and rob your home while you’re away.

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