Plan to shop online during the holiday season? Watch out for scams

While holiday season is all about giving, some malicious minds are always at work on fleecing people. What could be better for such scammers than a season that is all about gifts, online offers, e-cards, travel plans, charity and so on. In urban India, most of us are gradually moving towards Internet-connected shopping and even gifting to some extent. And there is nothing wrong with it; online shopping offers comfort, convenience and sometimes, a good deal too. So, if you plan to go on a shopping spree this holiday season, then better watch out for scams.

McAfee’s 2012 Holiday Shopping Study for India shows that  70 percent of those surveyed plan to shop online this holiday season while a surprising 3 in 4 (71 percent) of them plan to use their phones and tablets to do so. However, compared to other countries, India ranks highest (67 percent) on the metrics of respondents worrying about personal information being stolen while using a mobile app on the smartphone or tablet.  Despite this, an astounding 95 percent of them are willing to provide some level of personal information to receive an offer that is of great value to them. India is also highest among countries on the ranking of sharing credit card details in order to receive such offers. Also, 23 percent of polled Indians have been victims and almost 25 percent of the polled Indians know someone who has been a victim. McAfee warns about such scams and we have picked a few that our Internet connected users should be aware of.

Yes, robbers always wera a mask

Yes, robbers always wear a mask


“For the millions of consumers who plan to go online this holiday season to shop for the best deals, finalize travel plans and update their social channels, it’s important that they enjoy those activities safely by checking their security protection on their computers and mobile devices first,” said Venkatsubrahmanyam Krishnapur, Vice President - Engineering, Consumer and Small Businesses, McAfee.

Social media scams
Popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook aren't just a medium to stay connected. They are fast emerging as handy marketing and advertising platforms. You will have to be a little cautious this holiday season as to what you click on, as scammers use Facebook and Twitter just like emails and scam websites to lay a trap. So, beware of strangers befriending you, special and extra lucrative product offers or gift money, which may ask for your personal details and bank details. McAfee points out that Twitter ads offering discounts for popular gifts may utilise blind, shortened links, many of which, if not all, could be malicious.

Trappy mobile apps
Slowly yet steadily, we are all turning into app-happy people. People have been downloading about 25 billion apps for Android alone. Gifting mobile apps also seems to be growing into a trend lately. The holiday season could definitely see a rise in mobile app downloads, which means some malicious minds could get working to fleece people here too. Ensure that you don't download a malicious application. You can take some help from the several trusted apps that scan your device for malicious apps and also alert you before downloading them.


Offers on iDevices
Now, most users, whether tech savvy or not, want to own an iPhone 5 or ipad mini. But remember, iDevices are always hot holiday gift scams. Scammers usually ask the user to click on malicious links in order to get the free gift. As you click on the dangerous link, it may try to steal your personal information or even download malware onto your machine.


False travel deals
People often travel during the holidays and a scammer may just lay out that too-good-to-be-true deal just for you. So, if you are looking for a great flight or hotel deal online, ensure that you book it from a trusted source and don't be blindfolded by a deal that is just too good to ignore. McAfee reveals that “Phony travel web pages, sometimes using your preferred company, with beautiful pictures and rock-bottom prices are used to get you to hand over your financial details.”

Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals

Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals


Spamming and phishing
An inbox full of spams isn't something new for many of us. And during the holiday season, such spams transform into attractive advertisements offering cheap watches, your favourite gadget, diamond jewellery and so on. So, if you want a Rolex, go and buy it, as it won’t come drastically cheaper just because it is the holiday season.  

Holiday SMiShing and bogus gift cards
What is SMiShing? Well, it is phishing via text message. So, a scammer can just try to get you into revealing your personal information or performing an action that you otherwise wouldn't, by pretending to be a legitimate organisation. These days you can even buy gift cards for your dear ones. But be aware while buying a gift card online via some unknown third party, as these gift cards could be fraudulent.

Phony e-tailers and malicious e-cards
Annoying phony e-commerce sites could allure you into keying in your card details and other personal details by offering some great deal. And, you may never receive the merchandise you ordered, neither there would be any means to track the caller. Well, many may not really opt for a phony e-tailer or even other online lucrative deals, but one has to be careful of those free e-cards, even if you are sending/receiving a mere ‘Thank you’ message.  The link may contain spyware or viruses that may infect your machine as soon as you click on the card link.

Bluff charities
Most users try to be philanthropic during festivities to help others who are deprived of a good, normal life. Doing charity is good, but one has to be careful that their hard earned crisp green goes to the right hand. While you open your wallets and hearts towards the needy, some malicious minds may just post some fake charity emails or other advertisements to rob you of the moolah.

Enjoy the festivities and happy online gifting to all our readers.


Image Credit: Getty Images

Published Date: Dec 26, 2012 01:20 pm | Updated Date: Dec 26, 2012 01:20 pm