Police: Don’t fall victim to scams

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 2, 2011

‘Tis the season of giving, but it can also become the season of taking.

For many con artists, the holiday season brings yet another opportunity to cheat someone out of cash.

Opp Police Chief Nickey Carnley said, so far, he has had no reports of any scams, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

“People need to be very careful,” he said. “They should use good sense. Don’t give our your checking account numbers over the phone. If it sounds too good – it probably is.”

Others scams to be aware of this season, include people calling pretending to work for Medicare.

According to reports, elderly residents are called and they are asked to verify their Medicare account number and give their checking account number to pay for their new year’s fee.

Carnley said to be on the lookout for charity scams.

“Unfortunately people pretend to work for charities to get your money,” he said. “It’s sad, but it’s true.”

And scams are not limited to telephone calls, with more people shopping online, there are more Internet scams than ever.

According to Gary Davis of McAfee, a virus protection software company, there are several scams all Americans should be aware.

Davis said mobile malware is on the rise, and 52.6 percent of U.S. consumers who own a smartphone use their device for holiday shopping. Davis said Android phones are most at risk. New malware has recently been found that targets QR codes, a digital barcode that consumers scan with their smartphone to find good deals or learn more about products of interest.

Malicious mobile applications were second on the list. Yes, there are mobile apps designed to steal information from smartphone or send out expensive text messages without a user’s consent. These apps are often disguised a fun applications, such as games.

Beware of phony Facebook promotions and contests. Cyberscammers know that these are attractive lures and they have sprinkled Facebook with phony promotions and contests aimed at gathering personal information, Davis said.

Davis also suggested people be aware of scareware, or fake antivirus software. Using scareware, criminals trick computer users into thinking their computer is at risk or that it is already infected. Usually, consumers agree to download or pay for the phony software.

Holiday screensavers are next on the list, Davis said.

Mac users are also in danger now, he said. With the growing popularity of Apple products, hackers have designed a new wave of malware targeting Mac users.

Also on the list:

• Holiday phishing scams. Phishing is the act of tricking customers into revealing their person information.

• Online coupon scams. One popular scam is to lure customers with the hope of winning a free iPad. Consumers click on a phishing site, which can result in email spam and possibly dealing with identity theft.

• Mystery shopper scams. Be leery, people often seek personal information using these offers.

• Hotel wrong transaction malware emails. With the increased travel during the holiday season, scammers sometimes send emails that appear to be from hotels and claim that a “wrong transaction” has been discovered on the recipients’ card. When the recipient opens an attached form, malware is loaded onto the computer.

• “It” gift scams. This refers to the hot items of the season, and often sellers mark up the price and scammers advertise these gifts even if they don’t have them to sell.

• “I’m away from home” scammers. It can be dangerous to post about a vacation on social networking sites. Someone connected with people they don’t know can see the post and decide it’s a good time to rob them. A quick online search will turn up an address easily.