As you may have heard, the Olympic Games begin in a few days which means worldwide attention will be turned to the athletes in London. While excitement about the event is building among fans, it’s also building among thieves who are intending to use the Internet to part you from your money.
I recently spoke with Angel Grant, Principal Product Manager of RSA Security, who alerted me to the dangerous scams being concocted by Internet hackers in anticipation of the Olympic Games. “In the past three months over 60% of the phishing reports we saw came from the UK,” she advised.
By taking some precautions, you can be safer from Internet crime.
Be on the lookout for fake Olympic-related websites that could contain malware. If someone emails you a link to a site, look at the URL to see if it appears legitimate. Also watch out for fake coupons that promise you discounts if you fill out a survey. Downloading a fake coupon could infect your computer plus you could be giving away personal information when you filling out the survey form.
Spam text messages are on the rise and during the Games thieves will be sending out fake text messages with links that can infect your cell phone. Grant warned, “Scammers will send you a fake text message and when you click on the link you can infect your mobile device.”
On your computer, you can hover over the link to see the web address where you’ll be going, but you can’t do that with text messages. “More people are falling for that because they see these text messages and they’re just clicking on the links. People have their guard up more when they’re on a physical computer. When they’re on a mobile device they’re not paying as much attention and hackers are taking advantage of this.”
If you’re doing mobile banking or mobile shopping from an infected device, hackers can steal your financial information. Grant explained that this scam is called a “Man in the Mobile” scheme. Hackers can also re-direct links from legitimate text messages, from your bank for example, to their fake websites for fraudulent transactions.
According the Grant, the London Olympics Committee will be heavily using social media sites such as Facebook to promote the Games and get people engaged with the events. But fraudsters know this and are planning to take advantage of people’s trust of their friends.
“You think your friend is posting a cool video from the Olympic Games, you go to click on it and at that point you can infect your computer.” She advises keeping your guard up when you see Olympic links posted by your friends on social media.
Grant also explained about the scam called Likejacking: “It’s where you think you’re liking one site and you’re redirected to a different site such as an embarrassing site.”
Facebook email accounts may actually come in handy during the Olympics. According to Grant, hackers haven’t yet harvested Facebook email addresses, so you may want to use these to share legitimate links with your friends. Just be sure what you’re sharing is from authentic sites!
The London Olympics Committee has released three official mobile apps that work on iOS, Android and Blackberry. You can access those apps from the official Olympics website. Grant warns against downloading apps from other suspicious sites.
Be careful of clicking on links that claim to show clips of Olympic events. Those links could contain viruses. Instead, go to YouTube or Vimeo and search for the video.
Links to streaming videos can also infect your computer. Because of the time differences between London and the rest of the world, people want to watch streaming video of live events from work. Avoid infecting your office computer by clicking on a fake link that directs you to a spammer’s website. “If you go to one of the bogus websites from work, you may not just be infecting your computer, you could potentially be harming the company you work for. You may be giving hackers access to your company’s internal servers so be extra cautious on your work devices,” said Grant.
Olympic sponsors will be giving away free apps, wallpaper, screen savers, mascot images and other downloads to Olympic fans. Scammers will be trying to use these incentives to infect your devices with viruses. Make sure to go directly to the sponsors’ websites to download any freebies instead of clicking on links.
Scammers are setting up fake tourist sites and apps with shopping tips, maps, weather and other tourist information. These sites are designed to infect your devices with malware. The official Olympic website and apps have tourist information available.
The London Olympics Committee sold tickets by holding a lottery where winners had the right to purchase tickets. This lottery resulted in people receiving email notifications that they had won the opportunity to purchase tickets to the events.
Hackers have mimicked these email notifications with phishing scams sending out fake notices that look exactly like the real ones. Grant explained, “A lot of people who originally got scammed when trying to buy Olympic tickets. People got notifications that they won the lottery for tickets to certain events, all they had to do was download a PDF file and give some personal information and submit it. When they downloaded the PDF they were infecting their computers and they supplied the fraudsters with personal information for identity theft later.”
Fake Olympic Ticket Form
The London Olympics Committee has set up a web page that lists legitimate websites selling Olympic event tickets. Official Olympic Ticket Checker Website
On that page you can also search websites to see if they’re legitimate sellers of Olympic tickets. If you are offered event tickets, be sure to visit the official Olympics website before giving out your credit card number or other personal information.
Grant advises using common sense before clicking on a link or revealing information about yourself. “Step back and think, ‘Do they really need my Social Security number, credit card information or my mother’s maiden name for me to get this coupon or cute mascot screen saver?”
Don’t enter your credit card number or personal information to get a free download. If a sponsor is giving away a free incentive, then a credit card number should not be required. If you want a coupon, free game or other download from an Olympic sponsor, go directly to the sponsor’s site. When you visit a Facebook page, make sure it’s the page you’re expecting before you click “Like”.
If you discover an instance of fraud, make sure to report it to the Metropolitan Police. They have a fraud reporting website for both fraud reporting and ongoing investigations. The official Olympics website also has a fraud detection page that helps you spot scams.
The 2012 Olympics will offer record-setting opportunities to stay connected using tech. By taking a few precautions, you can make sure that the Olympics don’t result in you becoming a victim of cyber-crime. These scams will live on beyond the Closing Ceremony so make sure you follow this advice well after the Games are over.
Were you aware of these Olympic scams? Are you going to take extra precautions during the Games? Let us know in the Comments section below!
* Tower Bridge image by edwc