Going for the Gold – Yours! Olympics-Related Scams Alert

by Debra N. Diener J.D. CIPP G


Thieves know the Olympics capture the attention of millions of people around the world.  Even if we can’t attend in person, many of us want to be part of the spirit of the Olympics and might want to buy souvenirs and memorabilia.  So it’s not just the athletes “going for the gold” —the thieves are doing the same thing. But for them, the “gold” is our personal and financial information.

So we shouldn’t be surprised the thieves have launched several Olympics-related scams.  The key to avoiding them is knowing just how many different scams are underway.  Carolyn Nicander Mohr has an excellent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer detailing various scams she was alerted to by Angel Grant, Principal Product Manager, with RSA Security (www.philly.com; “The Wonder of Tech: Staying Safe from Cyber-crime during the Olympics”).

Ms. Mohr’s article outlines the scams Ms. Grant told her about.  Here’s a brief summary of a few of them:

  1. Fake Olympic-related websites:  These websites look as if they’re legitimate but could contain malware.  Be wary of emails with these types of links and check to make sure the URL is legitimate. How can you do this?  Ms. Grant says that if you get this link in an email on your computer, you can hover over the link to see the website address.  That should provide a clue about whether the site is a fake.  You can’t, however, do that if the link is in a text message.
  2. Fake Coupons: Be wary if you get an email promising coupons for discounts if you fill out a survey.  This survey link could also send you to a site with malware that will infect your computer.  That’s not the only danger since you’d also be giving away personal and financial information when you’ve filled out the survey.
  3. Spam text messages:  I’ve previously written about the rise in these messages.  Well, the thieves are using them for Olympics-related messages as well.  Ms. Grant underscores advice I’ve previously offered — we all need to be as vigilant about mobile device text messages as we are about emails we get on our computer.  Don’t just click automatically on links in mobile device text messages.

Infected mobile devices pose real dangers to you.  Thieves can do more than just steal your personal and financial information from the links you’ve clicked onto. Let’s say you do shopping or banking from a mobile device.  And let’s say you get a legitimate text message with a link from your bank or a store on your infected mobile device.  The thieves can redirect the legitimate text message link to their fake websites for any number of fraudulent purposes and transactions.  This scam’s known as “Man in the Mobile.”

You can read about other Olympics-related scams (e.g., fake videos and fake mascot offers) in Ms. Mohr’s article.  She also shares Ms. Grant’s information about the 3 official Olympics mobile apps that have been released by the London Olympics Committee.  These apps work on iOS, Android and Blackberry and can be accessed from the official Olympics Committee website.  I went to the website and it’s address is: www.london2012.com/mobileapps/index.html.   Do not download apps from suspicious sites.

These alerts will help all of us enjoy the Olympics, cheer on the athletes while keeping our “gold” out of the hands of thieves.


Ms. Diener is now an independent consultant on privacy, identity management, information protection and risk management. She served in senior managerial, legal, policy and legislative positions in all three branches of the Federal government. In addition to her privacy expertise, Ms. Diener played a lead role on such important domestic and international issues as criminal justice/law enforcement and financial services. She speaks frequently at industry and governmental conferences and meetings.