How To Avoid Being Cyber-Scammed this Christmas

Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year.  I love the Christmas Concerts, the carols and the ridiculous number of social gatherings.  However whilst most of us are enjoying a good dose of Christmas cheer, there is unfortunately a group of ‘cyber scammers’ plotting to take advantage of many people during the festive season.

McAfee has announced its annual ’12 Scams of Christmas’ list to educate Australians on the most popular ways cybercriminals scam consumers during the festive season.  Whether it is fake charities, good old phishing scams or a virus enhanced e-card, cyber scrooges spend a lot of time and energy scheming the best ways to take advantage of us during this busy time of year.

With the latest industry analysis showing that online shopping in Australia is up 13% from the previous year to date and 83% of Aussie retailers predicting higher online sales than last Christmas, there is a clear need for consumers to protect both themselves and their devices during the upcoming Christmas retail-fest!

So, in an effort to keep you all safe, I am sharing McAfee’s Top 12 Christmas Cyber Scams for 2014 and some tips on how to avoid them.  Please read and absorb:

  1. You’ve Got Mail – With online shopping growing exponentially, the risk of contracting a virus through a dodgy shipping notification or phishing scam is increasing.

Tip – Instead of clicking on links in a shipping notification, go directly to the site and enter your tracking number.


  1. Deceptive Advertising – Dangerous links, phony contests and bogus gift cards designed to steal your personal info will again be rife this festive season.

Tip – If a deal or advertisement looks too good to be true, it probably is.  Don’t click links, go straight to the retailer’s site.


  1. Chilling Charities – Beware of fake charities that could reach you via email or that are shared virally via social media.

Tip – Look for the seal and trust mark on a charity’s website before opening your wallet.  Always do an online search of the charity.


  1. Buyer Beware – There are some scams that you just can’t help but fall victim to.  The recent Target and Home Depot point of sale scams in the US are examples of this.

Tip – Check your credit card statements vigilantly


  1. Dodgy Apps – With a plethora of Christmas apps available, ensure you only download apps from trusted sources.  McAfee Labs recently found a suspicious Android app on Google Play (ACCLEaker.a) that secretly collects a device user’s google account ID, Facebook account ID and Twitter account name.

Tip – If the app requests too many permissions do NOT download it – it maybe requesting access to info on your phone that should remain private.


  1. Getting Carded – Hackers love packaging up bonus viruses with an e-card.  So, only use well-known e-card sites.

Tip – Be wary of gift cards from unknown senders.  Most recently, a US scam campaign took the personal information of AT&T users simply when they opened an email that claimed they were the recipient of a Starbucks gift card.


  1. Christmas Travel Scams – With travel on the rise over Christmas, online scammers are ready and waiting with fake travel links.  Also be wary of spyware at your destination that can access your information through logging onto infected PCs onsite.

Tip – Be wary of sites that request money or credit card information.  If you are renting a private holiday home, triple check the address on the rental site to ensure it is legitimate.


  1. Bank Telephone Scam – Beware the fake phone call from a bank stating that the user’s account has been compromised and requesting personal information including the account password, to make changes.

Tip – If you get a call from your bank about your account, ask to call them back.  Hang up, and call them back through the official line.


  1. ATM Skimming – Criminals can access your info at ATMs by installing skimming devices to steal the data off your card’s magnetic strip using either a video camera or keypad device to capture your PIN.

Tip – Beware of your surroundings when you are withdrawing money.  If you see any loose wires or parts that have been tampered with, leave immediately.


  1. ‘Year In Review’ Traps – Many news services capitalise on the holidays by developing “Year in Review” articles.  But remember not all these stories are developed with pure intention.  Links from phony sources could infect and compromise the security of your devices and your digital assets.

Tip: Be very cautious when visiting unknown URLs.  Visiting unknown URLs could result in landing on phony websites set up to spread malware or steal personal data.


  1. BYO…Device – With an increase in travel, activity and bubbly over the festive season, people are more likely to forget/lose their smartphones when they are out and about.

Tip – Ensure your digital assets are protected.  Always enable locate-lock on your phone and keep your PIN protected at all times.


  1. Beware USB Blues – Branded USBs often find their way into Christmas hampers.  Beware of using these as undetectable malware can sometimes pre-installed on them.

Tip – Avoid using USBs that you did not purchase yourself.  Stick to the ones you have kept secure.


If you do plan to search for deals online, use apps or open shopping related emails, you absolutely must invest in some comprehensive security software for your entire household’s devices such as the McAfee LiveSafe™ service, which protects all your PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones.  The LiveSafe service also includes the McAfee® Mobile Security app, which protects your smartphone or tablet from all types of malware.


Till Next Time,

Safe Shopping & Happy Christmas

Alex xx

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