Tis the season for more scam calls (falalalala lala la la)

It’s the last week of working from the office in 2012 for GadgetGuy staffers, and we’re receiving calls from companies who apparently want to give us things. But we can hear the call centres in the background, the directness of the operator’s script, and it makes us realise, yes, we’re back in the season of scams.

The holidays are considered by many in the security industry to be among the most lucrative times of the year for scammers to strike.

Imagine Andy Williams singing “it’s the most lucrative time of the year, with the scammers a calling to steal all your money and trick you with cheer.” That’s a version of the song you’ve probably never heard.

But that’s exactly what’s happening, and with more people sitting at home over the holidays, looking for bargains, deals, and happenings for which they can part with their money, scamming centres of the world will be doing everything to help you do just that, it just won’t be for your benefit.

As Kaspersky Lab’s Sam Bryce-Johnson told us earlier in the year, “there are many variations of social engineering scams, and the victims are often intelligent people who made the mistake of misplaced trust.”

In this day and age, it’s probably worth your time being a little more skeptical about just who is calling, and what their intentions are.

Scamming goes beyond phone calls, though, with social networks now a battleground for scams and fraudulent activities. Called “social engineering,” it’s a process where scammers attempt to con you through social activities, such as promotions on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and more.

We’ve been seeing it since 2011, when this time last year, JB HiFi was apparently rewarding people with free gift cards, just for liking something and sharing it on a social network. But it wasn’t the real JB, and scammers were just drawing trusting people into a con.

“Cyber-criminals have a knack to latch onto seasonal trends and theme their attacks via giveaways, online bargains, fake charities and dangerous e-cards,” said Melanie Duca, McAfee’s Consumer Marketing Director for the Asia Pacific region. “Throughout 2011 and 2012, we have seen a big trend in the number of fake coupons for retail sites being advertised through social media.”

As always, it’s good to be aware of what’s happening, and be ready to question the people on the other end of the phone, or the real message in a social networking scam. We’ve found in the past that questioning phone call scammers tend to get them flustered and diverted from the script, which makes them hang up.

Social scams are a little harder to gauge, but since department stores and websites rarely give out free money, let that be your guide, and use your best judgement.

Stay safe, people.