With the approaching of the holiday season, there is an increase in the instances of SPAM, and phishing. This happens every year, as people’s attention turns more to shopping, sending e-cards, etc.
With the increase in botnets, the SPAM is getting even more frequent, and sophisticated. Botnets are computers that have been infected with malware, and work in conjunction with each other as one large network. These can be used to send out massive amounts of SPAM.
With holiday shopping approaching, everyone is looking for a good deal, and the bad guys know this. So, they craft their messages to be as enticing as possible. Large discounts on popular items are common, as well as messages to the affect that you have won some desirable gift.
E-cards are another very popular way of trying to get you to click on a link. You get a message that someone (often someone you know) has sent you an e-card, and you are directed to click a link. Instead of the expected card, this link will take you to a site trying to sell you something, or more often, to one that will try to install malicious software on your computer, and incorporate it into one of the botnets mentioned above.
Incidentally, when you get these, or any other SPAM messages, and there is a link to "unsubscribe", or "click here to stop receiving these messages", do not believe them. The ability to unsubscribe is required to comply with U.S. law for legitimate bulk emailers, such mailing lists that you have actually subscribed to. With almost all SPAM emails, that link should read "Click here so we know this is your real email address, and we can sell it to a lot of other spammers". Clicking on these links in SPAM messages, will greatly increase the amount of SPAM that you receive, instead of removing you.
As always, make sure that your anti-virus software is up-to-date, and that your email is being filtered for junk mail. This will help reduce, but will not completely eliminate, the amount of SPAM that you receive. You still have to be very suspicious of any email that you receive that tries to get you to go to a web page, or click on any link, even though it may look like it is someone you know.