The Holidays are just around the corner – and it’s time to publish our yearly reminder to be extra careful during the Holiday season – which really has already begun. Yes already those “You’ve got a Halloween greeting” messages are starting to appear in your email inbox. Keep this in mind: it’s only going to get worse.
We’ve been looking into our crystal ball and what we see ain’t pretty! We can see millions of innocent computers and baffled PC owners being bombarded with thousands of ecards beginning with Halloween and reaching a crescendo on the night before Christmas.
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through my computer,
The e-cards were coming, I should be astuter –
‘Cos I clicked on a link and my computer was fried,
I banged on they keyboard and to no one I cried:
“My computer’s infected with malware and spam,
So I’m fixing my computer while my family eats ham!”
Anyway, the holiday season is upon us and you’re bound to see some of the following in your inbox this year:
“Your friend has sent you a Halloween ecard”
“Your cousin loves you and sent you this Halloween greeting”
“Your brother sent you this Thanksgiving ecard”
“Your classmate sends you Christmas greetings”
“Your secret admirer sent you a Christmas greeting!”
“Your co-worker wishes you Happy Holidays”
“You have received a musical Christmas e-card”
“——- (name of bank) requests you update your account security”
“Important message from ———- (name of bank): Your account may have been breeched”
From now through the first of the year, you and everyone else is going to be bombarded with spam which appear to be from friends and admirers – some appearing to have been sent from legitimate ecard/e-greeting sites. Scammers will be busy trying to steal your personal information. They’ll send you emails that appear to be from banks or other financial institutions – asking you to “update your account” or that your account may have been breeched – or some other fable. This time of the year is prime time for criminals, miscreants, and other misanthropes.
The subject lines of these kinds of emails will be telling you that you’ve got a wonderful greeting of some sort from some unnamed family member or friend. Or they may appear as legitimate emails from your bank or credit card company. Beware! These emails will contain links that may infect your computer with something when clicked. And the something may be a Trojan, a virus, adware, spyware, or other malicious junk you can bet your chestnuts you won’t want. Or they may contain links that lead to a site that is a mirror images of your credit card’s site, or your bank’s site. Whatever kinds of emails you receive like this, you need to make sure your brain is functioning – and you need to stop and think before you click.
So, here we ago again, appealing to you to use your common sense. Because going through the holidays with a Ho! Ho! Ho! devil-may-care attitude, could have you working on your PC during your family’s Christmas dinner. While you’re busy formatting your computer, reinstalling Windows. Or worse – calling credit card companies telling them your identity has been stolen – and your credit cards have been used to buy Mercedes cars, big-screen TVs and the like, none of which were purchased by you. Use your common sense – and keep your brain engaged when on the Web – especially this time of year. If you do, you’ll be sitting down with your loved ones eating Christmas dinner instead of talking to strangers on the phone untangling the financial mess you’re in because your identity was ripped-off.
Many of these emails will contain links which lead directly to a download of some kind of malware. Some will contain links that will ask you for personal information. Your first line of defense is not your anti-spyware, firewall, or anti-virus. In fact, it isn’t any kind of software at all. Your first line of defense is YOU. Think before you click. A legitimate ecard will almost always contain the name of the sender…not “a friend”, “an uncle”, “a business partner” or a “secret admirer”. That’s your first clue. Would your uncle sign his name “uncle”. If uncle Joe sent you a ecard, wouldn’t he sign it “Uncle Joe” not “uncle”. The subject line say “You’ve got an ecard from your uncle” not “You’ve got an ecard from Uncle Joe” – see?
If you’re not sure, copy the link by right-clicking it and choosing “copy shortcut” and paste it in a blank email or better yet, into notepad. See what it says. If you come up with something like http:// 71.316.419.284 DO NOT CLICK IT! It’s almost certainly something you don’t want. Anyone can forge a link – see? http://thundercloud.net/ – click it and see where you end up? (Don’t worry we wouldn’t send you to someplace dangerous!) If you’re very astute, you hovered over that link and saw where the link goes. You would have also seen if the site name was disguised as a numerical IP address. Hovering is good!
Banks, financial institutions, and/or credit card companies NEVER ask you to change your password, update your information, or ask for any kind of personal information by email. If you receive an email that appears to be from your bank or credit card company and you suspect it may be legitimate, don’t click any links in it. If you want to find out if something needs to be changed on your account, or something needs to be updated, type in URL of the Web site of the bank or credit card company that you use and login securely. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER click links in these kinds of emails.
More than anything, you’re going to see tons of e-cards this time of year – and lots of them will be sent by the millions by spammers, scammers, and criminals. So, be a cynic. Be a skeptic. We all can’t be TC. No one would ever send him an e-card; nobody likes him. He knows any e-cards that he receives have to be scams, worms, Trojans or something else suspicious. People probably like you and people might even like you as much as EB who gets inundated with e-cards from admirers, friends, well-wishers and fawning minions. You might get real e-cards from real people that like you. If people like you then you have to be extra careful because you might actually get a few dozen e-cards from real people. The avalanche of ecard spoofing is coming to your email program soon. Of that you can be certain. So be safe – don’t be sorry. THINK before you CLICK.
Make sure you update your anti-virus program several times a week. WHAT? You still don’t have one? Get one! Right now. Don’t read another word. We recommend AVAST and it’s free for home and personal use. You can get it here…come on…do it right now before you forget!
Also you should have at least two anti-spyware programs installed. One should be your primary anti-spyware and one should be your backup. Your primary anti-spyware should be configured to run all the time in the background. You should use your secondary anti-spyware to scan your computer once or twice a week. Our recommendation for a primary anti-spyware program is Spyware Doctor and for a secondary back-up anti-spyware we recommend SUPERAntiSpyware.
Your First line of defense? YOU! Use your own good common sense and good judgment
Your second line of defense? A good, updated anti-virus program
Your third line of defense? A secondary anti-spyware program
Forewarned is forearmed: The holiday ecard pandemic has arrived. So, remember this warning. You know now much we love to say: “We told you so!”