Security Center

Holiday Security


During the holidays, scammers are out in full force.


The latest scam involves receiving fake calls from “Bank of America” (1-877-733-5734) about a Visa or Mastercard. People have been asked their birthdate for identification, and then are being told their payment is late and are being instructed to send a payment to a “collection address”. Please be aware that this is a scam and you should not give out any information.    


Here are a few of their other tricks.

Holiday Phishing Scams

Cyber scammers know that most people are busy around the holidays so they tailor their emails and social messages with holiday themes in the hopes of tricking recipients into revealing personal information.  A common holiday phishing scam is a phony notice from UPS, saying you have a package and need to fill out an attached form to get it delivered.  Avoid opening emails, especially attachments that you aren't expecting, and avoid selecting links from unknown senders.

Bank/Credit Union phishing scams continue to be popular and the holiday season means we'll be spending more money. Reviewing account balances often and reconciling periodic statements are a fast way to know if you've been victimized. 

"Smishing" - phishing by text message, scammers send their fake messages via a text alert to a phone, notifying an unsuspecting consumer that his bank account has been compromised. The cyber criminals then direct the consumer to call a phone number to get it re-activated - and collect the user's personal information.  Again, reviewing transaction history often can uncover fraud more quickly and help the institution with their investigation.


Fake Charity

The holiday season is prime time for charities to send out emotional appeals for giving. But do you know exactly who you are donating to? The past few years have seen a rise in the number of fake charities, many of which claim to support popular issues such as homelessness, child welfare or disaster relief in order to drum up support for their scam.


Gift Cards

Gift cards can be a great gift for someone, but be aware of the stipulations, fees and expiration dates, as well as be wary of buying gift cards from third parties. Buy directly from the retailer so you know what you are truly getting and giving.


Facebook & Other Social Media Sites

Fraudsters know that these are attractive lures and have sprinkled Facebook with phony promotions and contests, requiring participants to complete multiple surveys divulging personal information.  Be conscientious of what you post, especially travel plan details. "I'm leaving on vacation!" may also be saying "I won't be at home to stop you from breaking in."  Let's avoid coming home to an empty house and wait to post comments after you've returned home.


Online Coupon Scams and Offers

Whether you're an extreme couponer or an occasional one, the season is rife with good online offers - and malicious ones. "One popular scam is to lure consumers with the hope of winning a 'free' iPad. Consumers click on a 'phishing' site, which can result in email spam and possibly dealing with identify theft." Another is that "consumers are offered an online coupon code and once they agree, are asked to provide personal information, including credit-card details, passwords and other financial data."


Mobile Device Security

More of us are using our phones for shopping, to research products or to redeem coupons. Malicious mobile apps are mobile apps designed to steal information from smartphones, or send out expensive text messages without a user's consent. Dangerous apps are usually offered for free, and masquerade as fun applications, such as games. While not a guarantee of security, only download mobile apps from official app stores, such as iTunes and the Android Market, and read user reviews before downloading them.


Holiday Screensavers

We love our screensavers for special times of the year like Christmas. But some of the free ones are loaded with more than holiday cheer and contain malware. "A recent search for a Santa screensaver that promises to let you 'fly with Santa in 3D' is malicious," McAfee says. Holiday-themed ringtones and e-cards have been known to be malicious, so just because it's free and even a little cute, avoid downloading from unknown sites or providers and stick with the reputable ones. 


Mac Malware

Those two words wouldn't have even been put together in the same sentence a few years ago. But, as McAfee correctly says, "with the growing popularity of Apple products, for both business and personal use, cyber criminals have designed a new wave of malware directed squarely at Mac users." Macs are prone to malware, just like a PC, but are just now being targeted.


The Extra Holiday-money Fraud

You always need some extra money during this season, so cyber fraudsters are offering work-from-home and Mystery Shopper scams. The most innocent of these make you fill out a form where you give out confidential information like your Social Security number which will get your identity stolen. The worst of them offer you work where you launder money from a cyber heist which can get you into major trouble.


"It" Gift Scams

Looking for the kind of gift that might sell out quickly this year? "When a gift is hot, not only do sellers mark up the price, but scammers will also start advertising these gifts on rogue websites and social networks, even if they don't have them," says McAfee. "So, consumers could wind up paying for an item and giving away credit card details only to receive nothing in return. "There is also the concern of shopping and paying top $ for luxury brand- products but receiving a counterfeit. Shopping at well-known retailer websites can help minimize this risk.