Craig Police Department warns residents of ‘12 scams of Christmas’

Locals urged to use caution when online shopping this holiday season

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The holidays are a time of giving thanks.

And many people across the country express their appreciation by exchanging gifts with family and friends.

But because technology has driven so much holiday business online it’s not uncommon for modern shoppers to face a veritable gauntlet of Internet scams.

On Monday the Craig Police Department, in partnership with numerous state and federal agencies, issued a news release asking local residents to be extra cognizant this holiday season of the “12 scams of Christmas.”

On the first day of Christmas — Social media scams

Cyber criminals routinely take advantage of the “friend” component of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to scam consumers during the holidays. Scammers tend to use blind links to advertise fake ads or special discounts, many of which can be malicious.

It is important for consumers hunting for the latest and greatest holiday deals to be sure of what posts they decide to “like,” and which advertisements, raffles, and apps they decide to download, the release states.

On the second day of Christmas — Malicious mobile apps

Smartphones are more affordable than ever and users have downloaded more than 25 billion apps on the Android market alone. But as the popularity of smartphone apps increases so too do the chances of downloading a malicious application designed to steal personal information or send out premium-rate text messages without the user’s knowledge.

On the third day of Christmas — Travel scams

Airports across the country are packed during the holidays with travelers flying home to be with loved ones. And with the down economy scammers are creating phony web sites promising rock bottom deals on airfare, sometimes using preferred carriers, which are designed to steal personal financial information.

On the fourth day of Christmas — Holiday phishing

Spam emails are nothing new and soon they will begin to take on holiday themes. Expensive items such as Rolex watches and pharmaceuticals are popular with scammers during the holidays. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

On the fifth day of Christmas — iPhone 5, iPad Mini and other hot holiday gift scams

A cyber criminal’s dreams are made of the buzz that surrounds hot ticket items like Apple’s new iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. Phony contests advertising free iPads, for example, are used to grab an online shopper’s attention, and usually results in stolen information or a dangerous malware infection.

On the sixth day of Christmas — Skype message scare

People around the world use Skype to connect with loved ones at home. A new message scam recently started that can infect personal computers or hold a user’s computer files for ransom.

On the seventh day of Christmas — Bogus gift cards

Gift cards should never be purchased online through a third party. Shoppers not only risk losing their money, but also run the risk of embarrassment when a family member discovers their gift card is a fake.

On the eighth day of Christmas — Holiday SMiShing

Phishing scams are no longer exclusive to email inboxes and scammers are now conducting similar scams, called SMiShishing, by text message. Just like email phishing scammers try to lure text messagers into revealing personal information by posing as a legitimate business or friend.

On the ninth day of Christmas — Phony E-Tailers

Fake e-commerce sites are successful scams for cyber criminals because they can appear real by promoting hot holiday deals. Because it usually takes items several days to arrive at a customer’s home, shoppers don’t realize they’ve been scammed until long after they have already provided their credit card number and other personal information.

On the tenth day of Christmas — Fake charities

Quite possibly the most popular and successful scam is the fake charity. Cyber criminals take advantage of the season of giving by creating fake charities and advertising them through spam email. It is always important to research charitable organizations before committing to a donation, but much more so during the holidays.

On the eleventh day of Christmas — Dangerous e-cards

Like many traditional forms of communication the greeting card is quickly being phased out by the e-card. Scammers are taking advantage of the popularity of e-cards to infect the computers of unsuspecting users with spyware and viruses.

On the twelfth day of Christmas — Phony classifieds

Online classifieds are a popular place to search for holiday gifts and part-time jobs, but ads that ask for too much personal information or require payment by Western Union are almost always scams.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com.

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