Beware of online identity theft scams this holiday season

Identity theft scams may increase this holiday season With the holiday shopping season now officially underway, Americans across the country are taking to both brick-and-mortar and online retailers to stock up on gifts for loved ones.

However, because of the increased damage that an ill-timed identity theft could cause cash-strapped consumers looking to consolidate debt, online security company McAfee has compiled a list of scams that have been especially popular this year.

One scam being used increasingly on consumers that the online security company warned of was the use of false auction websites to obtain confidential information. With the use of sites such as eBay seeing a rise in activity as consumers show increased frugality, a false email posing as a bill for a purchase from an auction website could easily fool a shopper.

The company added that scam artists had begun making use of social networking websites as well, offering fake friend requests via email that actually contain malicious software in links that claim to forward users to sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

"Santa may put malware in people’s stocking this season if you aren’t careful," David Marcus, the director of security research and communication for McAfee, told the Columbus Dispatch.

"The bad guys like holidays because they know people are looking for bargains or holiday cards and step up their game to con consumers," he added.

McAfee also warned that fraudulent e-cards that claim to be from a legitimate website could be another way for hackers to install malware on a computer.