E-cards (or electronic greeting cards) have become a popular, convenient and inexpensive method of sending greetings to friends, family and business associates for many computer users. Currently, there are thousands of e-card companies. E-card companies are becoming increasingly creative with many including options to add audio, video or animations to your messages. With e-cards increasing in popularity, they are now being heavily to download spyware and perpetuate Internet fraud on unsuspecting users.
A legitimate looking e-card, once clicked on and/or downloaded could actually contain spyware, spam or a computer virus. Some examples of this include: displays of obscene images, pop-up ads, launching of adult websites or spoofing of your email address to send e-cards to others (making them appear as if they came from you).
Below are some signs of a fake e-card:
o Spelling errors, or misspellings of your own name.
o Errors within the message of the card.
o You don’t recognize the card’s sender.
o The sender has a bogus name like: Joe Cool or Secret Admirer.
o It comes from a bizarre looking URL.
Ways to avoid fake e-cards:
o If there is any doubt, don’t open it.
o Never click on links or open attachments from an unknown source.
o Never accept the terms of any End User License Agreement without first reading the terms in fine print.
o Use antivirus software, like StopSign Internet Security and keep it up to date.
o Use an alternative browser, like Mozilla Firefox. Many scams exploit security holes in Internet Explorer.
o Whichever browser you use, make sure you download all new security updates.
o Don’t open any cards with attachments.
There are still many legitimate e-card companies out there and sending e-cards can be fun. Below are a few well-established, reputable e-card companies:
o Blue Mountain-http://www.bluemountain.com
If you have already accidentally opened a suspicious looking e-card, there are several things you can do:
o Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, by calling one of the three main credit reporting agencies, Equifax (1-800-525-6285), Experian (1-888-397-3742) and TransUnion (1-800-680-7289). If you file a report, it helps minimize the damage an online criminal can do.
o Monitor your financial statements closely. Look for small unexplained charges around the $25 or $30 mark.
o File a police report if you suspect your personal information has been stolen.
o Cancel any credit cards or bank accounts you fear may have been compromised.
Like any popular activity pursued on the Internet, e-cards can be a potential source of spyware and/or Internet fraud. However, by following a few common sense tips and being aware of the warning signs, you can help protect yourself from this new trend in computer crime.