12 Cyber Scams to Avoid This Christmas Season [WATCH]

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By Janice Somosot | December 4, 2013 12:49 PM EST

Christmas season is a time of giving, sharing and being kind to one another, but unfortunately, some scammers want fast cash and often prey on unsuspecting people during this time of the year. And scams have become digital nowadays as more and more people engage in e-commerce and buy most of their stuff online. That is why it is imperative that netizens be aware of the cyber scams proliferating in the Internet. Here are the 12 cyber scams to avoid this Christmas season.

1. Fake Shopping Web Site Scam

Some emails and Web sites including social media networking sites like Facebook, Twitter or Google+, may contain messages or posts including status updates that have links to fake shopping Web sites that use a similar online retailer's name. To avoid getting cyberscammed this way, visit the online retailer's official Web site by typing its URL or address in the Web browser address bar. If still in doubt, research and check the companies by visiting the National Retail Federation (NRF) or the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Web sites. Check out a video from the Arizona BBB below:

(Credit: YouTube/Arizona Better Business Bureau (BBB))

2. Holiday Screensavers, Mobile apps and E-cards Scam

According to McAfee, a computer anti-virus company, consumers should be wary of certain holiday screensavers. For example, a Santa screensaver that promises to let you "fly with Santa in 3D" is reportedly malicious.

"Holiday-themed ringtones and e-cards have been known to be malicious too," says a Mcafee alert.

3. Shipping Notifications Scam

Cybercriminals will send out realistic-looking fake email messages or notifications with requests for shipping verification. But they are really just after identity details or funds. Recipients are adviced to be wary of entering personal and financial details on forms associated with shipping notices, including those from UPS. Most shippers already have the necessary information to deliver packages that is why they don't need to verify through email. Spelling and grammatical errors are signs that the notification could be from cyberscammers. Recipients of these doubtful emails can call the shipping company to double check.

4. Irresistible Online Coupons Scam

Scammers offer irresistible online coupons to obtain personal information from consumers. An example of this is the "free iPad" coupon. Another variation of this scam is an offer for consumers to get an online coupon code in exchange for vital data such as passwords and credit card information.

5. Seasonal Travel Scam

Beware of unrealistically low prices on vacation and travel packages especially from dubious Web sites. Those planning to save on their vacation or travel should go to trusted and reputable travel sites and agencies, preferably those that have been tried and tested by a loved one or someone they know. 

6. Quick Response Code Scam

Quick Response (QR) codes are two-dimensional digital barcodes attached to an item with information about it. It is usually scanned using smartphones or tablets. Companies also use QR codes to provide information on deals and discounts. However, some malicious QR codes are put on top of legitimate ones by unscrupulous scammers. Think twice before scanning a QR code and make sure gadgets have security software and that it is updated regularly.

7. Online Games Scam

Online and interactive games, especially Christmas-themed games, might have some form of malware attached to it. Make sure to only download from safe and well-known app stores like Google Play and Apple Store. Also, those who are interested in these games should research for reviews before downloading them. Usually, there are warnings posted from those who have already tried it out.

8. Romance Scam

Cybercriminals use photos, text messages or emails and pretend to be from a dating Web site, but they only want unsuspecting netizens to visit Web sites with malware. Don't join suspicious-looking dating sites. Only join the ones that are proven and reputable. Ask around or research about the Web site online to confirm if it is legitimate or not.

9. Instagram Scam

Scams are not just spread through email, Facebook or Twitter. Even Instagram, the popular photo sharing site has been infiltrated by cyberscammers! Some people use certain enticing photos about sales or freebies and post it on their Instagram accounts to lure people into following them. Once people have followed them, they will send out links asking for personal information. These scammers pretend to be legitimate Instagram accounts of popular retailers, including luxury brands. If the account usually has the words "Free" or "Giveaways" and has no photos or just uses stock photos, then it could be a fake account. Those with shortened URLs might be scammers. And those who ask for passwords are probably scammers. Contact the business directly to be sure.

10. Hot Holiday Gifts Scam

Ads on suspicious-looking Web sites that claim they have a popular product that is usually sold out in stores and online should be viewed with caution. Do not believe these right away. These could be scammers who don't really have the product on hand and just want unsuspecting consumers to think that they do. Once they get payment information, then that's it! Consumers won't hear from them as well as the item that has been paid for. Again, check first with the BBB or the NRF. Consumers can also check NRF's CyberMonday.com to see if the offers are legitimate.

11. Unbelievably Low Priced Deals Scam

Cyberscammers trick consumers by offering huge discounts on items, especially gadgets such as smartphones, laptops and tablets. But if it sounds too good to be true, then don't fall for that trap. Always verify the truth from reputable sources.

12. Fraudulent Promotions and Contests Scam

Don't join contests and promotions that entice people to win amazing products just by filling out surveys, which include personal information. It could very well be a scam. Don't click on links from Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram and even Pinterest that have offers like this.

When researching for scams and companies online, use Google, but make sure to click only on official sites. Don't click on fake search results that are actually ads. Make it a habit to visit trusted Web sites such as the BBB, the NRF, McAfee and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

These are the 12 cyber scams to avoid this Christmas season. But there could still be other methods that are being used by devious cyberscammers out there. The DHS advises people to STOP, THINK and CONNECT. Check out the DHS video below to find out more about it:



5 Online Holiday Shopping Safety Tips for Consumers (Click HERE)

5 More Online Holiday Shopping Safety Tips For Consumers (Click HERE)

Online Shopping Tips to Beat Scammers, Spammers (Click HERE)

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