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Holidays are times when we see a big uptick in email retail advertising. They are also a time when we should be especially aware of threats from phishing schemes in all those ads.

In that surge of emails promoting holiday sales we can expect fraudulent messages with links to sites that download malicious software or phishing sites set up to steal personal information.

Phishing tracker site, estimates there are more than 2,900 active phishing web sites currently verified on the internet. Popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are increasingly attractive platforms for holiday-themed attacks.

Here are three simple rules that can help you reduce your risk of becoming a victim:

— Make sure your computer is protected against the newest malware threats by installing a combined antivirus and antispyware solution. This is your first point of protection against dangerous viruses and Trojans – and one without the other is no longer effective.

— Never click on a link in an email to make a credit card purchase. The email you’ve received may look legitimate, but there’s a high probability that the link will take you to a spoofed site where your credit card information will be stolen by cyber criminals.

Instead, navigate to the retailer’s Web site directly through your browser. The email may look harmless, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

— Even when you visit a trusted Web site, be vigilant about anything that looks out of the ordinary. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have all served as points of infection recently. Do not download anything, even from a trusted site, unless you are 100 sure it’s safe.

Every Labor Day, we see a wave of phishing attacks taking advantage of consumers’ expectations of increased retail email promotions connected with the holiday

Cyber criminals see an opportunity to slip by unnoticed among the legitimate promotions. Along with making sure virus updates and security software patches are current, consumers need to stay vigilant and use common sense in order to avoid any unnecessary headaches that these fraudulent emails look to deliver over the long weekend.

Tom Kelchner