Cyber-Scams Can Ruin Holiday Spirit

COMPUTER CORNER

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Before we get too far along this holiday season, let’s take a few moments to go over a few things that will help us avoid holiday heartache. This “most wonderful time of the year” is also prime-time for cyber-criminals.

The security company McAfee has outlined the 12 most common ways Internet bad guys will try to swindle their way into your computer.

Charity Phishing. We all feel a little more inclined to give during the holidays, and thieves know this. They will send legitimate looking e-mails from not-so-legitimate charities.

Fake Invoices from Delivery Services. Face it, we are at the mercy of Fedex, UPS, and other delivery services during the holidays ... if we want to stay in good graces with our cross-country cousins. Beware of any e-mail asking for your information in exchange for delivery.

Social Networking. Scammers send legit looking “friend requests” that contain links designed to infect your computer. However tempting it might be to have one more friend than your boss, don’t open links from “friends” you’ve never heard of.

Holiday eCards. Everyone loves a nice holiday card. What you should know, however, is that some of the most destructive holiday viruses have been attached to fake eCards. Never open eCards from unknown senders.

Luxury Jewelry. Internet scammers will take full advantage of a man’s need to get his significant other the perfect holiday gift — at a cheap price. Beware of ridiculously low prices on jewelry — these offers generally lead to sites where malware can be installed on your computer. If it sounds too good to be true ...

Online Identity Theft. Online shopping is ultra-convenient, but be sure to protect yourself while online by only purchasing from reputable, secure sites. Also, avoid shopping from unsecured public computers or Wi-Fi networks.

Christmas Carol Lyrics. I know, it sounds bizarre. But Internet crooks will create holiday-themed Web sites that come up in search results for holiday ringtones, lyrics, screensavers, and more. If you don’t recognize the Web site, there could be malware waiting behind the “one-horse open sleigh” information.

Work from Home. Beware of e-mails that offer jobs you haven’t applied for or work at home “opportunities.” After they steal your info and a setup fee, you’ll be right back where you started with a few extra headaches.

Auction Site Fraud. Internet scammers will post unbelievable deals in hopes of getting an unlucky bidder to bite. These “to good to be true” items never reach the purchaser.

Password Stealing. Change your password often. Enough said.

E-mail Banking Scams. Beware of any e-mail that asks for your banking information. Even if the e-mail looks legit, call your customer service center to complete their request.

Ransom Scams. If hackers gain access to your computer through any of the means listed in this article, they may demand a ransom to get your computer back in working condition. Nobody wants to deal with pirates, so a little vigilance up front will pay off in the end.

Please call Computer Problem Specialists for a free security checkup or for advice on how to best protect yourself this holiday season. A representative is available at (928) 468-0000. Make sure this season is indeed the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Daniel Taft is the senior network administrator and member/owner of Computer Problem Specialists, LLC with a degree in applied computer science. His career spans more than 20 years.

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