Beware of bogus online offers bearing a free iPad

McAfee found that spam being sent out this year is asking consumers to purchase products and provide their credit card number to get a free iPad. Victims never receive the iPad or the other items, just the headache of reporting a stolen credit card number.

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. Instead, they are signed up for a cell phone scam that costs $10 a week.

“People are looking for ways to get an iPad at a cheaper rate or free. This is a perfect opportunity for scammers to take advantage of that by sending out emails and quizzes over social media in an attempt to get a hold of people’s personal information. Once criminals have this information, they can use it to profit from it”, Masiello told Infosecurity.

Another online shopping threat comes from holiday job offers. As people seek extra cash for gifts this holiday season, Twitter scams offer links to high-paying, work-at-home jobs that ask for personal information, such as an email address, home address, and Social Security number to apply for the fake job.

“You may not only have to give up your information to get more information about the job opportunity, you may have to pay a fee for that information as well”, Masiello said. “So if they want a fee for you to apply for a job, that is something you want to stay clear of”, he added.

A third online shopping threat identified by McAfee is a fake e-card. Cybercriminals often load fake versions of e-cards with links to computer viruses and other malware. According to McAfee, computers may start displaying obscene images, pop-up ads, or send cards to contacts that appear to come from you.

“Scammers use this tactic to try to get people to click on links to malicious websites or click on links in malicious emails to get them to install malware on the computers”, Masiello warned.

Another scam is an offer for a product at a deeply discounted price. Scammers use auction sites and fake websites to offer “incredible” deals with the goal of stealing money and information from consumers. “Those sales can be attempts by cyber criminals to get you to go to their site, shop, and give up your credit card information”, he said.

These are four online threats included in McAfee’s 12 scams of Christmas. The other online scams to watch out for are: phony messages asking for money from a distressed relative or friend who is supposedly stranded; fake gift cards on social media sites that offer free money in exchange for personal information; phishing text messages that appear to come from a bank concerning a person’s account asking the person to call; fake holiday rental sites that ask for down payments; pay-in-advance credit card scams; spam asking for charity contributions; holiday-themed screensavers, jingles, or animation that contain malware; and theft of personal information when using hotel and airport WiFi systems.

Masiello offered the following advice to online shoppers to avoid these scams. “If you have retailers that you have established business relationships with, stick with those folks. It might be tempting to go to a site with a product that is 80% off, but in some cases these are scams. Also, when you are giving out your credit card information to purchase something, make sure you are doing so on an encrypted site”, he said.

Also, Masiello warned against responding to offers that arrive in spam emails. If the email appears to come from a legitimate retailer, visit the retailer’s website instead of clicking on an email link. “If it really is a legitimate deal, you don’t have to click on the link. You can get the deal directly from the retailer’s web site”, he explained.
Masiello also recommended previewing a link’s web address before clicking on it to make sure it is going to an established site. “Take a look at where that link is going because in some cases it will lead you to a look-alike site set up by a criminal."

Finally, Masiello warned online shoppers to make sure WiFi networks are secure before using them. “As you are traveling, make sure you are connected to a wireless network that has encryption on it because you never know when information you are transmitting over the Internet can be stolen by a criminal.”

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