Top 10 Online Scams of 2012

As we close out another year in Internet security, let's take a moment to remember the top 10 scams of 2012. From oldies but goodies, to entirely new innovations, cybercriminals made this year's online scams memorable.

10. Comcast phishing email: This email purported to be from Comcast, the United States' largest Internet and cable provider. Comcast has so many customers that the chances of an actual Comcast subscriber receiving the randomly addressed email are pretty good. The email claimed that the recipient's latest payment didn't go through and asked them to update their billing information or else face suspension of their account.

9. Flash upgrade scams: Whether it's a video alleging that the US has just invaded Iran or a steamy tape of a naked starlet, there are plenty of lures to get people to "upgrade" their Flash player in order to view a video. But the "upgrade" consists of a Trojan or other form of malware.

8. Fake UPS or FedEx delivery failure notifications: These scams are particularly irritating during the holidays, when a lot of people are shipping packages. The email tells the recipient their delivery couldn't be completed and invites them to download a form or click a link in order to start redelivery.

7. London Olympics scams: From unauthorized ticket resellers to fake "Olympic lottery" emails, crooks took advantage of many opportunities for fraud.

6. Copied sites: Watch out for these during the holiday shopping season. A copied site looks exactly like the one for a real, reputable merchant. Usually these sites are only up for a few days—long enough to collect a bunch of credit card numbers without filling any orders. If you complain, they'll refund the amount you were charged... but your credit card number has already been compromised, and possibly sold.

5. Fake Hurricane Sandy charities: Criminals took advantage of people's desire to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy by coming up with phony "charities"—which is why, in the wake of a disaster, you should only donate to reputable charities you've heard of before.

4. Presidential campaign emails: Emails with tantalizing subject lines like "CNN Breaking News—Mitt Romney Almost President" caught the eye of many political junkies. But clicking on the link to read more just took readers to a site that hosted malware.

3. Facebook scams: Among the more insidious scams you'll find on Facebook are phony announcements about new capabilities or features for the social networking site itself. For example, you may have heard of an app that lets you find out who's been looking at your profile, a "dislike" button, or a way to change the background color. They're all fake, and could all lead you into clicking on bad links.

2. Intrusive smartphone adware: It's up for debate whether the new breed of ads you see on your Android smartphone is actually fraudulent, but it's certainly a nuisance. More and more users are finding themselves bombarded with push notifications they didn't realize they'd consented to receiving. Your options are to opt out of receiving notifications from individual app developers—or to download an ad removal app.

1. Poisoned search terms: Now that many people have wised up to the dubiousness of links in strange emails, cybercriminals are embedding their bad links in search-engine results. Don't just blindly click through the results at the top of a search page—even Google can be fooled into thinking a fraudulent site is legitimate temporarily. Look at the URL, and if it's unfamiliar or suspicious, don't click the link.

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