Watch Out for ID Grinches This Christmas Season
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) The holidays are a busy and hopefully wonderful time for Americans, but those who aren't careful may make it an even better time for identity-theft scam artists.
With holiday sales expected to soar to the $602 billion mark and online sales rising by 15% this year, according to the security firm McAfee, consumers' smartphones, tablet computers and credit and debit cards will be more common targets than usual for ID thieves over the next seven weeks.
"The potential for identity theft increases as consumers share personal information across multiple devices that are often underprotected," says Michelle Dennedy, chief privacy officer at McAfee. "Understanding criminals' mindsets and being aware of how they try to take advantage of consumers can help ensure that we use our devices the way they were intended to enhance our lives, not jeopardize them."
To help Americans mitigate the threat of holiday theft, McAfee released this week its 12 Scams For Christmas list, in which the company highlights the dangers and urges special caution for holiday revelers.
Some of the scams:
The Android scam: Android users should be on the lookout for a "FakeInstaller" app. The programmers who created the bogus app can steal your smartphone codes to send pricey SMS messages to premium-rate numbers without your knowledge.
Gift scams: Holiday shoppers looking for popular gifts such as an iPhone 5 or an Xbox can fall victim via phone Web links, bogus "contests" on Facebook or Twitter or phishing emails. Always check out contest details with a retailer, and never fork over personal data, McAfee says. Software that's sent to you without you ever asking for it is particularly suspicious.
Travel trouble: Watch out for hotel, restaurant or train or airport Wi-Fi systems that asks you to download software to use their systems. Any legitimate travel port's Wi-Fi won't have you download anything you should be able to log right on. If you download software in those circumstances, you're begging to have your financial records compromised through dangerous malware.
"Card" tricks: Scammers like to trap consumers with phone email and social network greeting cards that cause you to download what McAfee calls "Merry malware" greetings that give you plenty of virus trouble, but no season's greetings. The rule? If it says it's from a friend or family member, check with them before opening it. If it comes from someone you don't know, throw it out.
Shipping headaches: Gifts come and go during the holiday season, and often it's hard to keep track of who's shipping what to you and vice versa. So check carefully before you open any "shipping notification" messages. ID thieves often craft phony notices to get you to click on a link and download malware designed to grab your data.