Australian Online Shoppers Warned – Thieves Also Lurk Online

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | November 16, 2012 7:33 PM EST

It's that merry season again where people splurge and shop for gifts either to give to others or to oneself. And as the number of Australians set to go online shopping will double this year, according to security technology company McAfee, it would be best to keep a mind or two whenever the urge to use that smartphone and tablet comes up to shop online.

According to McAfee, more than eight in 10 or 83 per cent of Australians who plan to shop online during the 2012 holiday season will use a personal computer, while 40 per cent will use a tablet or smartphone.

"The number of Australians doing their Christmas shopping online is set to double this year and with that comes greater opportunity for cybercrooks looking to put a dampener on the silly season," Sean Duca, enterprise solutions architect at McAfee Asia Pacific, said in a statement. "Australia has one of the highest rates of smartphone and tablet usage in the world so it's up to companies like McAfee to ensure Aussies are aware of what to look out for and how to stay safe online."

Guised ala 12 Days of Christmas, McAfee released its guide tip 12 Scams of Christmas:

1)    Social media scams - Scammers use channels, like Facebook and Twitter, just like email and Web sites to scam consumers during the holidays. Be careful when clicking or liking posts, while taking advantage of contests, ads and special deals received from "friends" who advertise the hottest holiday gifts (such as the new iPad Mini), exclusive discounts at local stores, holiday-related jobs postings, and your friends' accounts being hacked and sending out fake alerts to all their "friends."

2)    Malicious Mobile Apps - As smartphone users we are app crazy, downloading over 25 billion apps for Android devices alone! But as the popularity of applications has grown, so have the chances that you could download a malicious application designed to steal your information or even send out premium-rate text messages without your knowledge.

3)    Travel Scams - Before you book your flight or hotel to head home to see your loved ones for the holidays, keep in mind that the scammers are looking to hook you with too-good-to-be-true deals. Phony travel webpages, sometimes using your preferred company, with beautiful pictures and rock-bottom prices, are used to get you to hand over your financial details.

4)    Holiday Spam/Phishing - Soon many of these spam emails will take on holiday themes. Cheap Rolex watches and pharmaceuticals may be advertised as the "perfect gift" for that special someone.

5)    iPhone 5, iPad Mini and other hot holiday gift scams - The kind of excitement and buzz surrounding Apple's new iPhone 5 or iPad Mini is just what cybercrooks dream of when they plot their scams. They will mention must-have holiday gifts in dangerous links, phony contests (example: "Free iPad") and phishing emails as a way to grab computer users' attention to get you to reveal personal information or click on a dangerous link that could download malware onto your machine.

6)    Skype Message Scare - People around the world will use Skype to connect with loved ones this holiday season, but they should be aware of a new Skype message scam that attempts to infect their machine, and even hold their files for ransom.

7)    Bogus gift cards - Cybercriminals can't help but want to get in on the action by offering bogus gift cards online. Be wary of buying gift cards from third parties; just imagine how embarrassing it would be to find out that the gift card you gave your mother-in-law was fraudulent!

8)    Holiday SMiShing - "SMiShing" is phishing via text message. Just like with email phishing, the scammer tries to lure you into revealing information or performing an action you normally wouldn't do by pretending to be a legitimate organisation. 

9)    Phony E-tailers - Phony e-commerce sites, that appear legitimate, try to lure you into typing in your credit card number and other personal details, often by promoting great deals. But, after obtaining your money and information, you never receive the merchandise, and your personal information is put at risk.

10) Fake charities - This is one of the biggest scams of every holiday season. As we open up our hearts and wallets, the bad guys hope to get in on the giving by sending spam emails advertising fake charities.

11) Dangerous e-cards - E-Cards are a popular way to send a quick "thank you" or holiday greeting, but some are malicious and may contain spyware or viruses that download to your computer once you click on the link to view the greeting.

12) Phony classifieds - Online classified sites may be a great place to look for holiday gifts and part-time jobs, but beware of phony offers that ask for too much personal information or ask you to wire funds via Western Union, since these are most likely scams.

"The holidays are an exciting time and millions of us will be going online to shop for the best deals, book travel and stay in contact with friends via social networks," Mr Duca said. "The first step in ensuring your personal details stay safe and secure at this busy time is to check your security protection - on your mobile devices as well as your PC."

"Another way Australians can reduce the risk of coming across a cyber-threat is to be wary of offers that are too good to be true. They shouldn't click on links or open attachments from people they don't know, and should go directly to websites by typing the site's URL in the web address bar."

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