'Tis the season to be scammed. Identity thieves, computer
hackers and fraudsters tend to increase their efforts over the
holidays because more consumers are online purchasing gifts and
looking for deals, says Dave Aitel, CEO of Immunity Inc, which
creates penetration testing products (ie hacking tools). Scammers
also take advantage of people's generosity during the season of
The Kip Tips iPad App
Aitel says that people need to watch out for these ten threats
that could put them at risk of becoming victims of fraud or ID
theft during the holidays.
This popular Facebook scam involves online games that require you
to click something that moves across your computer screen. You
think you're clicking on a dancing Santa, but, in reality, you
could be clicking on a concealed link that might perform actions
such as making your Facebook profile information public or giving
scammers access to information stored on your computer. So don't
click on those dancing Santas (or any other game that pops up on
your computer or gets passed around on Facebook).
2. Drive-by downloads.
This is a term that refers to downloading something that you didn't
realize was a malicious program or a download that occurs without
your knowledge. This might happen as you are browsing the Web
during the holidays and and visit unfamiliar sites with ads that
promise deep discounts on items. If the site isn't legitimate, the
ads probably aren't, either. Also avoid sites that require you to
download a "codec" to view a video because this is malicious
3. Infections from legitimate sites.
Now is prime time for hackers to infect sites that get more traffic
during the holidays with pop-up ads that have viruses. Aitel
recommends installing an ad blocker on your browser, such as the
, or to use Chrome as your browser because it's harder for hackers
4. E-mail phishing.
Your inbox might fill up with donation requests or holiday deals
over the coming weeks. If these e-mails come from people or groups
you're not familiar with, delete them because they're likely
attempts to steal your personal information or con you out of big
bucks. Also watch out for e-mails claiming to come from your
credit-card issuer. You might assume that they're legitimate if
you've been using your card frequently to make holiday purchases.
But don't respond to any e-mails saying that there's a problem with
your card. Instead, call your company directly using the number
printed on the back of your card. See
Protect Yourself From New Phishing Schemes
for more information.
5. Text-message phishing (or smishing).
Be wary of text messages with donation requests, notices of
too-good-to-be-true deals or even gift card offers from major
retailers. There's a good chance that they're fake. If you respond,
you may be prompted to divulge personal information, such as your
credit card number.
6. Phony apps.
Be wary of the apps you download on your phone or Facebook page.
Researchers recently found that Android phones are vulnerable to
text message phishing if users download infected apps (
). Even legitimate apps might ask permission for too much
information. So read the list of permissions an app requests to
make sure it's not asking for information you don't want to
7. Fake Google results.
If you do a Google search for a popular toy your kid wants for
Christmas, for example, there's a good chance that some of the
results will be links to fake sites or images that have viruses or
malware. That's because scammers build sites based on popular
search terms. When doing your holiday shopping online, stick with
sites you know (see our
15 favorite sites for finding deals online
8. Forced browsing.
This advanced hacker technique is used to steal your passwords when
you log into your accounts using a public Wi-Fi connection. So
don't check your accounts online at the coffee shop or other public
Wi-Fi spot. Even if you're just browsing the Web using a public
Wi-Fi connection, though, you can put yourself at risk if you've
set your browser to save the passwords to your accounts. Hackers
can view your browsing history, go to sites you've visited and
steal passwords without you knowing.
9. Wi-Fi sniffing.
This technique allows hackers to see what you're doing on your
computer if you're using a public Wi-Fi source. If you surf the Web
on your smart phone, use your 3G (or 4G) network connection if you
can because it is more secure than Wi-Fi. To protect your laptop
from hackers, sign up for a personal virtual private network
service, such as
Private Internet Access
to secure your computer's Internet connection.
10. Digital profiling.
Your digital profile is basically what you say about yourself on
social media. And thieves can make use of this information. For
example, you shouldn't announce on Facebook that you'll be out of
town over the holidays. You put your home at risk of a break-in or
of being used by criminals as a mailing address to ship illicit
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