Lifestyle

The 12 Scams of Christmas

Christmas tree.
Christmas tree. Nicholas Falconer

WITH the news that more than 60% of Australians plan to do their Christmas shopping online this year, locals are being warned of the heightened risk of scammers during the holiday season.

"The number of Australians doing their Christmas shopping online is set to double this year, and with that comes greater opportunity for cyber-crooks looking to put a dampener on the silly season," said Sean Duca, online security spokesman for anti-virus software producer McAfee.

"We have one of the highest rates of smartphone and tablet usage in the world, so Aussies (need to be) aware of what to look out for and how to stay safe online."

One person who has noticed scams doing the rounds is Bundaberg retiree Dave Upson, who received two phone calls from different scammers on Friday alone.

"The first one that rang had an Indian accent and said his name was Mark Hill. He told me if I went to the post office and sent $190 to the Western Union, he'd personally come and hand me a cheque for $5248 the next day," Mr Upson said.

"He said because I was a good bloke with no convictions and had served my community well; the Federal Government was giving me this payout."

While the crooks chose the wrong person to call - Mr Upson is a retired police officer - he said he worried others would fall prey to the scam.

"It was very convincing," he said.

"My wife took another call (the same day) saying she had overpaid fees to be returned."

Mr Duca said it was not unusual for people to be sucked in by these scams, with a survey of Australian consumers revealing a third of Australians had personally fallen victim to a scam or knew someone who had.

In order to make sure that number does not continue to rise, Mr Duca warned shoppers to be on the lookout for the many scams bound to be circulating the web this Christmas such as scam e-cards, bogus gift cards, fake charities and travel scams.

"The holidays are an exciting time and millions of us will be going online to shop for the best deals, book travel and stay in contact with friends via social networks," Mr Duca said.

"The first step in ensuring your personal details stay safe and secure at this busy time is to check your security protection on your mobile devices as well as your PC."

"Another way Australians can reduce the risk of coming across a cyber-threat is to be wary of offers that are too good to be true.

"They shouldn't click on links or open attachments from people they don't know, and should go directly to websites by typing the site's URL in the web address bar."

The 12 Scams of Christmas

1. Social media scams
Beware of ads for phony contests and "stay at home" job postings, even if they are from your friends.

2. Malicious Mobile Apps
Only download apps from official app stores. Check users' reviews and read the app permission policies.

3. Travel Scams 
Be wary of offers that are too good to be true and, when on the road, be careful of using free Wi-Fi connections.

4. Holiday Spam/Phishing 
Never respond to spam emails or click on the links in these emails.

5. iPhone 5, iPad Mini and other hot holiday gift scams 
Be suspicious of deals on hot holiday gift items and make sure to verify them with the retailer.

6. Skype Message Scare 
Never click on a suspicious link, even if it comes from someone you know.

7. Bogus gift cards 
Buy gift cards from the official retailer and not a third party source.

8. Holiday SMiShing 
Remember that legitimate businesses such as banks won't ask you to verify personal information via texts.

9. Phony E-tailers 
Only shop at trusted well-known e-commerce sites.

10. Phony charities 
When you want to give, visit the charity's website and do some research before donating.

11. Dangerous e-cards 
Check to see that the sender is someone you actually know and it comes from a well-known e-card site.

12. Phony classifieds 
Don't wire money for deals and make sure you don't pay for an item before receiving it.

Topics:  christmas, editors picks, internet, scam



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