Sunday, December 30, 2007

Holiday Spam Scams Increases

With online holiday shopping already breaking records and predicted to increase an overall 20 percent through December*, cyber-crooks have been hard at work spreading their own brand of holiday cheer -- holiday spam. This year marks an all time high for spam, accounting for 10.8 trillion messages, according to industry market researcher IDC. With the start of the holiday season Nov. 23, holiday spam has spiked, representing an initial 6 percent increase over pre-Thanksgiving levels—with more to come, warns SPAMfighter, an international spam security and filtering company. Consumers need to take more precautions this season and update their spam protection now to combat spam growth expected through the end of the year.

"Spammers are banking on the fact that millions of less cyber-savvy consumers are spending more time online to get the best deals and gifts, but haven't taken the time to secure their PCs or update their spam protection," said Alix Aranza, Managing Director, SPAMfighter North America. "This year consumers need to be especially careful and guard against more advanced techniques and aggressive spam offers."

To ensure a safe and secure holiday shopping experience, SPAMfighter recommends consumers keep the following tips in mind:

• Never make a purchase or donate money through an unsolicited e-mail offer. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam. Holiday charity scams are a favorite technique of spammers and crooks. Donate through the trusted organization's Web site directly. Consumers should create a separate free e-mail account for online shopping to avoid potential spam and to keep track of online purchases.

• Before you shop online, download the latest spam filter protection – don't rely on a PC program from last year or the PC manufacturer to send you a reminder. Spam and virus filtering protection should be upgraded, at a minimum, once a year or more, depending upon Web visits. SPAMfighter, for example, is constantly monitoring new spam scams and automatically offers new upgrades to customers.

• Don't open holiday e-cards from unknown senders. This is a primary way for spammers to replicate and send malicious malware such as the Storm Worm, to hijack unprotected PCs and turn these into spam machines.

• Watch out for higher levels of phishing e-mails. These are legitimate-looking e-mails from what appears to be a trusted, well-known brand, such as your bank or popular sites, like eBay and Amazon. In reality, this spam seeks to steal personal or financial information by redirecting the e-mail user to a fake, but very real-looking Web site, that asks for confidential or personal information. When in doubt, call the bank or company supposedly sending the e-mail and verify the request.

• Social networking phishing spam is on the rise. Phishers are using social networking sites, such as MySpace, to target specific groups of e-mail users with free gift offers and ads. Check your privacy settings on these sites to restrict who can access your information and never click on a link posted by an unknown source.

• Be cautious with hyperlinks to other Web sites and don't open hyperlinks in an unsolicited e-mail. Clicking on the link is a confirmation to the spammer that an e-mail address is active and to whom it belongs, and more importantly, opens the door to new malware and viruses or a phishing site.

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