The Olympics and the scams

No, this is not a sports story. This story is about viruses and cyber scams that might hit your virtual life as the Olympic Games unfold in London.

Fortinet, a network security provider, has advised Internet users to be on the alert for cyber scams as the Olympic Games open.

The security company said in a statement that a flood of malware attacks might get unleashed in the second half of 2012 as major sports and political events like the Olympic Games, the UEFA European Football Championship and the US presidential elections start rolling.

"Internet users must be on high alert against losing money and personal information during times like these," said Karine de Ponteves, anti-virus analyst at Fortinet.

For example, a cyber scam often seen during major sporting events is "purchase fraud", which promises tickets at discounted prices. Users may chance upon tickets at temptingly low prices when they visit classified ads websites like eBay and Craigslist. They should be highly suspicious as such deals during game seasons are often pure frauds, according to Fortinet.

Another type of scam is the 'rogue anti-virus software'. "During major sports or political events, many users browse the Internet to learn about scores, results and other hot news," said Fortinet in its statement. "From a simple search on their favourite search engine, it's possible for users to get to a malicious website (or a legitimate website that has been hacked) with a pop-up window on their screen indicating that their computer is infected (even if they already have an anti-virus program) and offering to clean it. This false message typically prompts users to click on the pop-up, enabling the installation of a bogus anti-virus software without their knowledge and, next, the installation of Trojans to collect users' key data such as passwords and banking numbers."

At such times, Internet users may receive "fake lottery" notifications, which are spam e-mails.

Fortinet has the following tips for users to prevent themselves from losing money or personal information to the above or similar scams:

- Requests for password or credit card information should set off alarm bells - double check before you comply.

- Be very wary of links that either lead to applications or external websites, especially if they are embedded in e-mail or private messages discussing topical events or celebrities.

- Shortened URLs are becoming very popular with the rise of micro-blogging and social networking services. They are a convenient tool for abuse - clicking on them can direct you to a malicious website without warning.

- Be cautious about revealing information typically used by Web services to recover your password, such as your mother's maiden name, your favourite hobby or the school you went to. Once in the public domain, this information can be easily found and used to access your accounts or even establish a loan in your name.

- Never send money to anyone you have never met in person.

- Review financial statements on a weekly or monthly basis. The earlier you spot an error, the easier it is to resolve.

- Believe the popular saying "If it's too good to be true, then it probably is"

- If you haven't entered for a lottery, you can't win it.

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