Since we're getting close to the holiday season and the biggest time of year for ecards (also called e-cards or electronic greeting cards), we decided to devote today's issue to answering the question: Are ecards safe?
Are Ecards Safe?
Ecards (or electronic greeting cards) have become very popular over the past few years. Ecards are a very convenient and inexpensive way to send greetings to your friends and family, and they can even be used to promote your business.
There are thousands of ecard companies, and ecards can be a handy way to send a quick thank you, sorry, or thinking of you message -- as well as a cheap and easy emergency fix when you forget a special occasion and you no longer have time to send a regular card by snail mail.
Ecards have become increasingly creative, and many incorporate audio, video, and/or moving images. Some ecards can be completely customized, including recording your own audio message. Many people love receiving ecards.
Are ecards safe?
If you send or receive ecards, have you ever considered whether or not the ecard you're sending is safe? Or whether it's OK to open an ecard when you receive one -- especially from someone you know?
Most people never consider the dangers of ecards -- and unfortunately, there are plenty of dangers.
Having said that, most ecards you receive from friends are safe and easy to use. However, since there are quite a few ecard scams going around right now, we want to help you make sure you don't become an ecard scam victim.
This is especially important since the holiday season is perfect for ecard scams -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year -- which is why we decided to devote this issue to this topic.
What are the biggest ecard dangers?
A legitimate-looking ecard, once it is clicked and/or downloaded, might actually be spyware, spam, or a computer virus.
For example, your computer then may start displaying obscene images, barrage you with pop-up ads, launch adult websites, or start sending bogus ecards to those in your address book that appear to come from you.
For more on viruses, trojans and spyware, click here.
One common ecard scam involves ecards that download adware or spyware -- and they get you to agree to this in the fine print when you click saying you accept the Terms of the ecard company!
Since not all viruses trash your PC, it may lie dormant for awhile -- so you may never suspect that the ecard you received was anything other than legitimate...
Here's an example of an ecard scam that's trickier than most phishing scams: The ecard looks like it comes from Hallmark and asks you to download an attachment to pick up our ecard. However, the attachment isn't really an ecard -- it's a Trojan.
This particular Trojan then waits for you to sign onto AOL. If and when you do, it displays a pop-up window that looks like an AOL form, but asks you to verify/update your AOL billing info by providing your credit card, checking account info, and Social Security number.
This ecard, of course, is not really from Hallmark, and AOL has nothing to do with this scam either. Scammers are trying to steal your financial info and/or your identity.
Important: Hallmark never sends attachments with its legitimate ecards. And AOL doesn't ask for billing info via pop-up windows.
Telltale signs of a fake ecard
Here are a few clues that an ecard is bogus...
- Spelling mistakes -- e.g. congratulation! Or your name is misspelled.
- Errors in the message -- e.g. it says you sent a card, not received one.
- The sender isn't someone you know.
- The sender has a bogus name (Joe Cool, Agatha Tragonawar, Card Sender, Secret Admirer, etc.).
- A URL that appears odd -- e.g. www.http:// rather than http://www.
How to avoid trouble from fake ecards
- If in any doubt, don't open it.
- Delete any ecard from someone you don't know. Why would someone you don't know be sending you a card?
- Never click on anything from an unknown source, never open an attachment from an unknown source, and never download from an unknown source. (It's really as simple as that!)
- Never click to accept terms from any company without reading the fine print. One ecard scam asked users to accept Terms that included the fact that the company would access their address book and forward a message to everyone in it!
- Use antivirus software and keep it up to date. For more on anti-virus software, click here.
- Use Mozilla Firefox. Many ecard scams use loopholes in Internet Explorer, so Firefox is far more secure against this type of scam. But since Firefox is not 100% secure either, make sure you keep FireFox updated. We've talked about this many times, including on this page on spyware removal.
- We recommend against opening any ecard with an attachment. You never know what is really in that attachment until it's too late.
Remember: even opening attachments that appear to come from friends or coworkers puts you at risk. Check out these email safety tips.
- Be skeptical and alert. If something seems fishy, be cautious. Remember, a Trojan can make a phony ecard look like it's coming from a friend or family member. So, be vigilant.
Time to sign off. Have a wonderful week.