Virus experts warn: Beware of the 12 online scams of Christmas

Most Australians plan to shop online this Christmas, but about 30% don’t know how to identify whether the sites they’re using are fakes.

That’s the harsh reality laid out by McAfee’s new Holiday Shopping Study, which has found that out of 1,005 Australian adults, one in 10 believe there is no risk in connecting to free Wi-Fi, and nearly one in three don’t know how to identify a secure shopping site.

What makes the finding worse is that a third of Australians have either personally fallen victim to an online scam, or know someone who has.

This is an extremely important finding, McAfee points out, as Australia has the highest rate of smartphone and tablet ownership out of all the countries surveyed including the United States and Canada.

An impressive 69% of Aussies use a smartphone, tablet, or both – so it makes all the more sense they need to stay safe online.

Yet we seem more willing than ever to disregard online safety. Over half of Australians say they’ll provide their name and age, and 38% say they’d give their phone number.

But 25% don’t even pay attention to permissions when downloading apps.

McAfee has put together a list of the top 12 scams you need to be wary of this Christmas shopping season. You’d do well to take them on board, and even warn staff about them as they might even be shopping on company time in the lead-up to Christmas.

Social media scams. These can be tricky to spot, as people tend to trust links sent by their friends. Scammers can use advertisements under a friend’s name to trick you into clicking. Twitter messages promoting discounts are also popular – be sure to check short links disguising URLs before you click them.

Mobile apps. We download a lot of apps. But malicious mobile applications are more popular than ever, especially on Android, so watch out.

Travel scams. People are travelling a lot this time of year, so just keep in mind that if a deal is too good to be true, then it probably is. Be wary.

Phishing. A good phishing email will look identical to one from an official organisation. Check the email address and even confirm with the organisation itself to determine if the email is legit.

Apple scams. Apple’s gadgets are hot-ticket items this time of year. Beware of messages telling you where you can get some on the cheap.

Skype messages. As Christmas draws near, more families and friends separated by distance will use video messaging to catch up. Take note of Skype scams that attempt to infiltrate your computer by appearing to be from the program itself.

Gift cards. Gift cards are notoriously easy scams to pull off, so be sure what you’re buying is authentic.

SMS scams. Think of this as a phishing email sent over text. It wants you to reveal personal information – never do so through an SMS.

Fake retailers. This is an important one, especially as many Australians can’t seem to determine whether a site is fake or not. Be very wary. Look for contact details, and do a quick Google search for user experiences to find out if where you’re buying from is legitimate.

Fake charities. A pretty shameful scam. Double check the charities you’re giving to are real.

E-Cards. You may not be using e-cards anymore – we’re not sure anyone has since the 1990s – but if you do, keep them clean! Of viruses, that is. Get your Christmas greetings from reputable and well-known sites.

Classifieds. Classifieds are great places to look for presents, but you don’t want to give out your personal information. Just use some common sense.



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