Identity Theft

How Your Celebrity Obsession Could Get You Hacked

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Searching the Internet for the rich and famous can lead even the most casual pop culture enthusiast into the depths of technology hell. Cybercriminals feast on the starstruck by planting malware among the search results for popular actors, musicians, politicians, comedians and athletes.

That’s not to say people shouldn’t keep up with their favorite stars. Rather, one should recognize the risks in order to avoid getting hacked and having personal or financial information compromised. (Which in turn could lead to identity theft and some nasty marks on a credit report.)

The technology security company McAfee released its 2013 list of the most dangerous celebrities to research online, and actress Lily Collins took the No. 1 spot. Searching for pictures and downloads of Collins, daughter of musician Phil Collins, includes a 14.5% chance of landing on pages with spam, spyware, viruses or other malware.

Collins, who stars in “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” replaced last year’s No. 1 Emma Watson, who is no longer in the top 10. Only one male, Jon Hamm of “Mad Men,” made the list.

The Riskiest Celebrity Searches

Based on McAfee’s research, searching for these celebrities puts users at the most risk:

  1. Lilly Collins, 14.5% chance of encountering malware
  2. Avril Lavigne, 12.7%
  3. Sandra Bullock, 10.8%
  4. Kathy Griffin, 10.6%
  5. Zoe Saldana, 10.5%
  6. Katy Perry, 10.4%
  7. Britney Spears, 10.1%
  8. Jon Hamm, 10%
  9. Adriana Lima, 9.9%
  10. Emma Roberts, 9.8%

One in five Americans have had an email or social media account compromised, which puts them at risk for identity theft. For those trying to keep up with the latest in Hollywood, McAfee advised Internet users to be suspicious of links to free content, exercise extra caution when searching hot topics and check the URL for misspellings, which may indicate a fake website set up by cybercriminals.

If you’re worried that your celebrity Internet searches have sent you into a cybertrap, you should check your computer for malicious software, as well as monitor your credit scores (using a free tool like Credit.com’s Credit Report Card), credit reports and financial statements regularly for signs of identity theft.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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