Christmas may be the season for giving, but it also the season for scamming, according to internet security firm McAfee.
As more and more consumers now use their smartphones to help manage the demands of the holiday season, the risk of exposure to malicious software or malware, which enables cyber criminals to steal personal information, is higher than ever.
Here, we reveal the 12 most prevalent scams to help you be extra vigilant and keep your festive good mood intact this Christmas.
1. Not-so-merry mobile apps
The holiday season has prompted the launch of a whole range of fresh mobile applications, or 'apps,' designed to enhance the holiday shopping experience. But McAfee warns consumers to think twice before downloading; malicious software can masquerade as a trusted app, allowing cyber criminals to steal personal information and charge purchases to your accounts. Only update your apps by using an official, trusted app store to minimize this risk.
2. Holiday mobile SMS scams
Scammers obtain your mobile numbers from websites or forms people you might have innocently given your contact details too. One method is to target victims by sending texts promising "free" gifts or prizes, but consumers who click on the links could find themselves handing over sensitive information in exchange for the free gift, exposing them to credit card fraud and identity theft. Texters should also be careful that they don't find themselves unwittingly signed up to a premium rate texting service that racks up a hefty bill. Even worse, malware can even hide in the background watching your text messages for bank authorization codes to steal. Keep an eye on your bills for unusual text messaging charges.
3. Hot holiday gift scams
The old adage 'if it seems too good to be true it probably is' rings true when it comes to holiday scams. Beware of seemingly incredible deals on the latest tablet devices, game consoles, and other hot gadgets. If you click a link to enter a contest or get a great deal on a new device you could end up on a site that attempts to trick you into downloading malware or revealing your personal information. To avoid getting duped, McAfee experts recommend being suspicious of very low prices and online stores you've never heard of.
4. Seasonal travel scams
Travel is a big part of the holiday season for many people, and we often look for the best flights and hotel deals online. But cyber criminals are present here as well, working hard to trick you into giving up your credit card numbers and other private information. The same rule on holiday gift scams applies here, be wary of unrealistically low prices on vacations and stick to reputable sites.
5. Dangerous E-Season Greetings
Yes, you guessed it; even electronic greeting cards can contain malware that makes itself at home on your tablet, phone or computer when you click on e-card link. While most are safe and harmless, McAfee advises not opening the link unless you know the sender. You can also check the address that the e-card came from to verify it belongs to a legitimate, known greeting company.
6. Deceptive online games
Many people enjoy playing online and interactive games on their smartphones and tablets, but a seemingly harmless game can also be used by cyber criminals to lure you into downloading malware. While you're busy ridding the world of zombies, malware could be busy extracting your personal information. Game fans should check online reviews for warnings from less fortunate gamers and stick to well-known app stores.