Better Business Bureau: Fake e-cards don’t spread holiday joy

December 12, 2013 

The email reads: “Brenda has sent you a Christmas greeting.”

It was created on officegreeting.com, and played Bach’s “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” and offered a simple season’s greeting.

“I received e-greetings before and I think they are cool,” says Brenda Cameron, president at Canyon Legal Forms in Nampa. “And, it’s simple and cheap to do.”

Thankfully, I know Brenda Cameron and I opened her e-greeting. But, if you unexpectedly receive a Christmas (holiday) e-card, be careful, it may not be from a friend or loved one, but instead might contain a virus.

When it comes to e-cards, be wary of these schemes to get you to open fraudulent emails:

• Appears to be familiar or a friend. A greeting might appear to come from someone you know. Social networking sites such as Facebook oftentimes provide personal information that scammers can use in a greeting card to make it appear more legitimate.

• Uses common name. Fake e-cards may use more common names in a subject line like, “You have an e-card from Mike!”

• Pretends to be a legitimate card company. Spoofs authentic greeting card companies such as Hallmark, American Greetings and Blue Mountain.

• Tells a recipient to click a link. Most greeting cards will open with a picture or video screen, making it not necessary to click a link.

• Asks the recipient to install software. Most of us expect e-greetings to involve some cute animation. Characters dance to catchy tunes.

• Some fake e-card sites target e-card senders. Fake websites may trap unwary victims, asking personal information or financial information (your credit card). Verify every website.

So, how can you tell if an e-holiday greeting is real or fake? Here are six tips to help out.

• Confirm with the sender. Before you open the e-greeting, double check with the sender. Sending an email to ask if a friend has actually sent an e-greeting can save you headaches down the road. If you send e-greetings, send emails letting the recipients know to expect the e-cards.

• Never click on links. Either cut and paste the URL into your browser or type it in yourself.

• Visit the card company website. You’ll often find helpful information on legitimate company websites. For example, Hallmark spells out its practices, letting customers know that Hallmark e-card notifications come from the sender’s email address, not from Hallmark. The site also offers instructions for forwarding fraudulent emails to Hallmark so the company can fight e-greeting abuses.

• Use e-card pickup services. Legitimate companies may provide a way for you to pick up the card from their websites rather than clicking on a link.

• Make your own e-card. There are many ways to create a PDF and attach it to an email. The animation segment can be easily created as well.

• And, of course, one of the best ways to protect your computer from being infected is by updating systems and antivirus software. Savvy computer users are occasionally fooled. It’s critical to install operating system patches and updates and to regularly maintain and run security software.

Or, simply send one the old-fashioned way, by mail.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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