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McAfee’s twelve scams of the holidays

Security & PrivacyMcAfee, security, holidays, scam, online shopping, online banking

With electronic and online shopping predicted to be at an all-time high this holiday season, Canadian consumers should be extra weary of cyber-attacks, according to Brenda Moretto, Canadian consumer manager at McAfee, now part of Intel Security.

Citing figures that place Canada’s web hosts at the number three spot in harbouring phishing domains, Moretto said that Canadians are “no less vulnerable” to threats such as cyber scams and malware.

In response, the security software company outlined the “12 Scams of the Holidays” that Canadians should be aware of:

  1. Phishing scams through email top the list with emails disguised as shipping notifications and invoices to fit the season. According to Moretto, hackers are trying to capitalize on the increased flow of money to score banking information and other personal details.  Consumers are also more likely to click on fraudulent links during periods of high shopping activity.
  2. Fraudulent deals can also make an appearance online or in your inbox, offering unbeatable prices at the cost of your information. These extend beyond dangerous links to “phony contests on social media and bogus gift cards,” according to an official McAfee statement.
  3. Shady charities may tempt your giving spirit this holiday, but one should take extra care to verify their legitimacy. Hackers are aware of the influx of donations around this time of year and will try to take advantage.
  4. POS vulnerabilities are generally beyond a shopper’s control, but can be a great nuisance to those who fall victim.

“Most major businesses have security and lost prevention departments that see behaviour that they think could potentially be a problem,” said Moretto.  While it’s up to companies to disclose if their systems have been compromised, she recommended that consumers inform themselves through the news.

  1. Mobile apps may offer convenience like never before, but users should be weary of downloads – especially holiday-themed ones and those that request a slew of permissions – that may steal more than they give.
  2. Digital e-cards can spread the holiday cheer – provided they come from well-known e-card sites that are safe. As a general rule, avoid any site that asks you to download software.
  3. Travel plans generally include arrangements for personal safety, but vacationers should factor in cyber security as well. According to Moretto, a good anti-virus and firewall should protect devices from unfamiliar networks and spyware, but one should be vigilant of fake travel deal links as well.
  4. Fake bank calls can provide a backup attempt at a person’s details. Even shoppers who may be aware of potential attacks on their bank accounts and credit cards may fall victim to hackers that impersonate bank security personnel through live or automated phone calls.
  5. ATM skimming, though an old practice, is still alive and well, according to Moretto. She says a bit of vigilance is all that’s required.  Look for an ATM in a safe place, shield your pin from cameras and look for signs of tampering.
  6. Year in Review scams may seem unusual, but are also a feature of the holiday season. As with e-cards, verify their source or even access these types of articles through their official publication website instead.
  7. Lost or stolen devices can prove to be much greater risks in the wrong hands. According to McAfee, an increase in travel and leisure can lead to more lost phones, which in the hands of a hacker could be a gold mine.
  8. Party favours and gifts such as company-branded USB’s can seem commonplace, but they may be infected with malware that their manufacturer was not aware of.  While this is usually unintentional, it can nevertheless put a damper on your holiday cheer.