Robert Siciliano identity theft expert

Cybercriminals Take Advantage of the Holiday Season, Aiming to Steal Consumers’ Money, Identities and Financial Information

As cybercriminals begin to take advantage of the holiday season, McAfee, Inc. revealed the “Twelve Scams of Christmas” – the twelve most dangerous online scams that computer users should be cautious of this holiday season. According to Consumer Reports’ 2009 State of the Net Survey, cybercriminals have bilked $8 billion from consumers in the past two years, and McAfee warns consumers not to fall victim to the top scams this year.

Being that I’m on McAfee’s Consumer Advisory Board, I’m advising you to adhere to the following:

Previous first 3 of Twelve Scams of Christmas here. McAfee’s 3 more of Twelve Scams of Christmas below.

Scam X: Password Stealing Scams

Password theft is rampant during the holidays, as thieves use low-cost tools to uncover a person’s password and send out malware to record keystrokes, called keylogging. Once criminals have access to one or more passwords, they gain vast access to consumers’ bank and credit card details and clean out accounts within minutes. They also commonly send out spam from a user’s account to their contacts.

Scam XI: E-Mail Banking Scams

Cybercriminals trick consumers into divulging their bank details by sending official-looking e-mails from financial institutions. They ask users to confirm their account information, including a user name and password, with a warning that their account will become invalid if they do not comply. Then they often sell this information through an underground online black market.

McAfee Labs believes cybercriminals are more actively scamming consumers with this tactic during the holidays since people are monitoring their purchases closely.

Scam XII: Your Files for Ransom – Ransomware Scams

Hackers gain control of people’s computers through several of these holiday scams. They then act as virtual kidnappers to hijack computer files and encrypt them, making them unreadable and inaccessible. The scammer holds the user’s files ransom by demanding payment in exchange for getting them back.

McAfee advises Internet users to follow these five tips to protect their computers and personal information:

1. Never Click on Links in E-Mails: Go directly to a company or charity’s Web site by typing in the address or using a search engine. Never click on a link in an e-mail.

2. Use Updated Security Software: Protect your computer from malware, spyware, viruses and other threats with updated security suites. McAfee® Total Protection software provides fully-featured protection from current and emerging threats. It also comes built in with McAfee SiteAdvisor® technology, a safe search toolbar to warn consumers of a Web site’s safety rating as well as phishing protection. It uses intuitive red, yellow and green checkmarks to rate potentially dangerous Web sites when searched on Google, Yahoo! or Bing.

3. Shop and Bank on Secure Networks: Only check bank accounts or shop online on secure networks at home or work, wired or wireless. Wi-Fi networks should always be password-protected so hackers cannot gain access to them and spy on online activity.

Also, remember to only shop on Web sites that begin with https://, instead of http://, and seek out Web sites with security trustmarks, like McAfee SECUREâ„¢.

4. Use Different Passwords: Never use the same passwords for several online accounts. Diversify passwords and use a complex combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

5. Use Common Sense: If you are ever in doubt that an offer or product is not legitimate, do not click on it. Cybercriminals are behind many of the seemingly “good” deals on the Web, so exercise caution when searching and buying.

If you think you may be a victim of cybercrime, visit McAfee’s Cybercrime Response Unit to assess your risks and learn what to do next at www.mcafee.com/cru.

Get a credit freeze. Go online now and search “credit freeze” or “security freeze” and go to consumersunion.org and follow the steps for the state you live in. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes the SSN useless to the thief.

Invest in Intelius Identity Theft Protection and Protection. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what’s buzzing out there in regards to YOU.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses Cyber Monday on Mike and Juliet

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