Stay safe online: Watch out for the 12 scams of Christmas

We all hope for a joyous and fun-filled Christmas holiday season, but sometimes the work involved with the fun makes us a bit frantic. Between stringing up lights, sending out tens upon tens of Xmas cards, and shopping online for gifts, we may get frazzled enough to drop our guard. At least, that's what the scammers are hoping.

However, the good people at McAfee have assembled a nice visual reminder – something to help prevent us from getting fleeced this Christmas. Yes, you've probably heard some of this advice before, but now is a great time for a refresher course.

Evergreen tips

Some of these tips apply at any time of the year. Only install mobile apps downloaded from official app stores. Don't click links in text messages, especially ones that offer to update or install an app. If you get a text asking you to update account information or supply your password, laugh it off. Worried it might be real? Go directly to the website and check your account status.

Any time you receive an offer that seems too good to be true, well, it probably isn't true. Scammers like to offer unbelievable deals on hot gifts or on holiday travel. If you fall for their ploys, you may end up with nothing but a lump of coal.

Christmas specials

Anybody can create and send an Xmas e-card, so don't be hasty when you receive one. Verify that it actually came from someone you know, and check to make sure the sender used a trustworthy site. Charities like to drum up extra donations this time of year, but don't respond to email requests. If you want to be generous, navigate to the charity's website directly.

Many online retailers will use email or SMS to notify you about the status of your orders. It's nice to know that your product has shipped, or that it will be delivered on a certain day. If you get a notification about some problem with your order, however, the chances are good that it's a fake. Don't click any links. Rather, go back to the merchant's site and check your order status there.

It's always possible that the shopping site you're visiting is a sham. This isn't the season to shop with a merchant you've never heard of before. Even when you're shopping on a big-name site, double-check to make sure you typed the URL right. Sometimes fraudsters create mocked-up sites using an address that's just slightly off, such as amazom.com. A slip of the fingers could send you there.

For a bigger view of the full scam list, just click on the infographic below. And, hey, if you're a big online shopper, consider using Abine's Masked Cards service, which allows you to shop without giving out your actual credit card number. Masked Cards is free until 26 December. Stay safe and enjoy Christmas!