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BBB: Consumers should stay alert as Christmas approaches

  • Special to The Eagle
  • Published Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, at 11:38 a.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, at 7:35 a.m.

If you are in a Christmas fog without Rudolph’s nose to light your way, here are a few more pointers to help guide you.

These are the last three of our “12 Scams of Christmas.” Now that the Christmas countdown is in single digits, it’s especially important for consumers to be watchful for those who would take advantage of them.

Last-minute shopping, transportation hassles and panicky decision-making can distract you and add to your vulnerability. Keep an eye out for these Christmas-spirit dampeners.

Scam number 3: Holiday downloads with Grinchy intentions

The Internet is as full of seasonal spirit as any other place at this time of year. Unfortunately, scammers lurk behind some of the online festivity.

Invitations for you to click on links that promise Christmas fun in the form of images or messages should be viewed with suspicion. The online security experts at mcafee.com warn that some of those holiday-themed e-mail attachments and spam contain malware that can be downloaded into your computer. The malware can be in the form of viruses, spyware or other malicious active content.

Similarly, many search online for holiday-themed screensavers, ringtones and such. Those can also be attempts to access your digital devices with malicious intent.

Hackers and scammers are constantly mindful of the latest trends that might make certain search words have very high traffic. Holiday time brings millions of searches for seasonal screensavers and ringtones.

Those are the places where they lurk, hoping the unsuspecting will quickly click on their links and thereby download their malware. Frequently update your digital devices’ anti-virus protection and check firewalls.

Scam number 2: Phony Wi-Fi areas

Travelers need to be aware that hackers set up fake Wi-Fi connections in many areas.

Favorites are at airports and hotels. Those searching on their devices for connections may see one simply named “Free Wi-Fi.” A scammer may have set up a peer-to-peer connection, which will enable you to surf the Internet through the hacker’s own computer.

Meanwhile, they are stealing your passwords, credit card and account numbers, and Social Security number. Here’s how to avoid getting hacked in this manner:

• Never connect to an unfamiliar wireless network. The name can be changed to a legitimate-sounding connection by hackers.

• Disable your device’s automatic connections. Do not have it set up to connect with any wireless network within range automatically.

• While traveling, turn off file sharing. Turn off the Wi-Fi hotspot on your device so others cannot sign onto your network.

• Create a Virtual Private Network, called a VPN, which prevents hackers from getting your data. This is especially important if your device has a Wi-Fi hotspot feature.

Scam number 1: Bogus charities

We top our scam list with some of the most blatant of the bottom-feeders — scammers who take advantage of the charitable, who only want to help those in need.

Knowing that the holidays are a time for giving, scammers seek to impersonate worthwhile causes in hopes they can steal your money. Be mindful of the fact that fake charities impersonate the real thing by naming themselves so that they sound very similar to legitimate organizations.

Be suspicious of anyone who knocks on your door, calls you, texts or emails you with a plea for donations at this time of year.

Denise Groene is state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Reach the BBB at 800-856-2417 or www.kansasplains.bbb.org.

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