How to Avoid Being Scammed This Holiday Season

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The Twelve Scams of Christmas

The most dangerous online scams that computer users should be cautious of this holiday season.

The many online promotions making the rounds are a perfect hunting ground for spammers and scammers alike this holiday season. So how can users avoid falling prey to the bad guys? Below are some tips and tricks adapted from my personal arsenal.


Before you click on a link ...


As users started to wise up and scrutinize Universal Resource Locators (URLs), scammers were forced to refine their techniques. One common method was to manipulate the displayed URL to either spoof or obfuscate the final location. Some scammers have refined this technique further and have started using public URL-shortening services to hide their tracks and some are even using their own private ones.


One way to avoid spoofed URLs is to avoid clicking on links and manually type out the address instead. Personally, I also refuse to click on a shortened URL unless it was sent to me by a known person, with the content of the email consistent in terms of writing style and what we typically talk about.


Social media spam


Did one of your Facebook friends just send you a message to check out a "must have" offer? Be extra careful here, as some of these could actually be spam messages that are spread through malicious code. Clicking on such a link will typically bring the user to a page where they are coerced to click on a "like" button to share a post on their Facebook wall. Users are usually enticed with freebies or other rewards to respond immediately, and could also be asked to fill out a survey or contest form.


One pointer to note here is that it is actually against Facebook policy to entice users to like something in order to gain something in return. Moreover, the likelihood is high that any information collected in such a fashion will be compiled and promptly sold to spammers. If you must check out a special deal or promotion, however, it makes more sense to visit a retailer's website directly, or only click on a link from their official social media page.


Popular product scams


It seems that every retailer out there is touting an iPad tablet or various highly popular gadgets as lucky prizes or at insane promotional prices these days. Well, scammers are drawing from the same playbook, with some promising a chance to win these products in exchange for a simple registration. Depending on the requested information and what was supplied, this can only result in email spam at best, and potential identity theft in the worst-case scenario.


Put it this way: If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So you may want to take a deep breath now and say to yourself 10 times: "I'm not going to win an iPad or Kindle Fire tablet now."