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Seasonal Security…

In the spirit of the season, the Louisville Better Business Bureau printed 10 great tips about how to keep safe online and “in real life” this season. Though McAfee also regularly publish such information on our consumer sites, it’s interesting to get someone elses opinion on what the prevalent scams going on are.

So, ho-ho-ho and here we go with the information – be Safe online this holiday season!

1. H1N1 Email Virus – Internet scammers are sending fake emails all over the country to steal passwords and install a damaging virus on victims’ computers. The fraudulent email purportedly comes from a “State Vaccination H1N1 Program” and offers an official-looking but bogus link to the Website for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The message says anyone 18 or older should click on the link to complete a personal profile because every adult “has to have his personal vaccination profile” on the CDC’s Website, whether they intend to be vaccinated or not.

2. BlueHippo.com, a computer-purchase financing company that requires customers to pay upfront before products are shipped, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, saying its bank had frozen its funds after the FTC, the BBB and other consumer groups claimed that it had failed to deliver computers and electronics orders. BBB has received over 4,150 complaints against the company.

3. Smishing – Be leery of text messages you receive indicating a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. In this scam, you are directed to call the number provided in the message to update your account or correct the problem. This connects you to an automated voice response system. Eventually you are asked for personal information, like bank or credit card numbers.

4. Maximum Business Concepts contacts consumers via telephone and offers an opportunity to work from home as an ‘affiliate,’ selling credit card terminals. The company has an F rating with BBB. Complaints stem from refund issues to high pressure sales tactics. Customers bought the business opportunity for $150 – $500 plus an additional $19.95 per month for a personal website. Some say they were pressured to purchase an advertising campaign with costs up to $35,000.

5. International Timeshare Consolidators has D- rating with BBB. ITC contacts timeshare owners by phone offering to assist in the sale of their property. The agent collects information for an appraisal and makes an overly-desirable bid to purchase the timeshare. Later the company calls back claiming the transaction cannot be completed because the consumer now owes fees for transferring the title. After submitting payments, some owners find that their timeshare didn’t actually sell.

6. Holiday Card Scam – E-cards are being sent via spam. Like many other Internet fraud schemes, the criminals use social engineering tactics to entice the victim, claiming the card is from a family member or friend. Although there have been variations in the spam message and attached malware, generally the spam directs the recipient to click the link provided in the email to view the e-card. Upon clicking the link, the recipient is unknowingly taken to a malicious webpage.

7. Use caution when shopping Online Auctions! Don’t provide financial information directly to the seller. Use a legitimate payment service to protect your purchases. Diligently check each seller’s rating and feedback along with the number of sales and the dates on which feedback was posted. Be wary of a seller with 100% positive feedback, if they have a low total number of feedback postings, and all feedback was posted around the same date and time.

8. Buying a Gift Card? Be careful purchasing them from auction sites or through classified ads. They could be fake or stolen. If you purchase a gift card, it is safest to buy it directly from the merchant or another authorized store. If the gift card merchant discovers the card you received from another source or auction was initially obtained fraudulently, the merchant will deactivate the gift card number and it will not be honored for purchases.

9. Holiday Refunds and Exchanges: Don’t delay on holiday returns and exchanges! Stores could have time limits on them! Whether giving or receiving, be sure to keep the receipts and original packaging of the gift. Many stores have restocking fees for high-priced merchandise like electronics and furniture. Also, keep in mind, some stores will only allow exchanges, not refunds.

10. Rebates are going high-tech. More businesses are opting for pre-loaded cards as opposed to paper checks. Unlike checks, which can be deposited in the bank to pay bills, to get the benefit, consumers must spend. Most of the cards can be used at any store, but some retailers are handing out rebate cards that can only be used at their stores. BBB reminds consumers to read the fine print when filing for a rebate!

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