Thursday, November 10, 2011

Don't Let the Grinch Steal Your Holidays!

Written by Theresa Payton and featured on WBTV's Protecting Your Cyberturf with Kristen Miranda and Theresa Payton

It’s that fun time of year, shopping for the special people in your life for the holidays. You have so many options now. You can hit the early bird sales at the mall, shop in your jammies at your home computer and now you can even shop from your smart phone while sitting in a boring meeting at work! But remember, cybercrooks go where the action is.

We are going to be telling you how to get the best deals using social media, your phone, the internet - ways to stretch the dollar to bring everyone the most joy. A recent study from the National Retail Federation said that over 50% of you plan to use your smart phone this year to help you with your shopping and many of you plan to avoid the crowds and shop online. But Cyber Expert, Theresa Payton, is especially concerned about you this holiday season as she watches both old and new tricks putting the Grinch between you and the holidays.

Theresa is concerned about many scams coming your way and she has highlighted the 6 worst for you here.

1. Mobile Madness: Cybercriminals know that the phone is the place to be for coupons, social networking deals, and purchases. If the deal on your phone sounds too good to be true or needs personal and credit card data, think twice.
2. QR Codes: Quick Response Codes - Those funny looking codes on boxes might be tempting but we have warned you before about counterfeit QR codes and malware hiding behind them. Be careful about scanning these using your phone or tablet.
3. Facebook Gift cards: Every day seems to have a new deal offering “free” gift cards on Facebook and they look pretty convincing. Since many merchants have moved to “Facebook only” or “Web only” deals it makes it hard to verify. Check your merchant’s home page or call and ask.
4. Online holiday greeting cards: Sorry to be a Grinch but don’t open unless you can call the person to make sure they really sent it to you.
5. Free online holiday screensavers, ringtones, or games: Free on the internet ALWAYS has strings attached. It might just be annoying pop up ads but it could also include spyware. If you must download the free games or screensavers, only download them from sites you know very well.
6. UPS / DHS / USPS / FedEx: Be on the lookout for any email notifications about missing packages, package status, or other notices. If they ask you to click on a link or open a file, be very suspicious

  • Update your Browser software, Operating System, and Antivirus Software
  • Practice good digital hygeine:
    • be wary of links and attachments
    • don’t fill out forms asking for personal or credit card information
    • do not share too much information about your holiday plans

Camoflauge. In this case, it’s a way to disguise the fact that your phone is ringing. You can use a ringtone like a cough, or someone saying, “Shhh!” If you are going to an outdoor event, you can pick a bird tweeting or bee buzzing ringtone.

For cell phone safety tips, go to the National Crime Prevention Council at:
Keep track of Facebook scams at

Trust but verify those great deals through the Better Business Bureau at

If you are a victim of an internet crime, notify your local law enforcement and your banks first and then contact the FBI at and the Federal Trade Commission at to file a complaint.

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