The Monday after Thanksgiving has become known as the biggest online shopping day of the year, with companies offering discounts galore to entice customers. But as a new Cyber Monday dawns, experts agree about two things: Online sales will continue to grow; and cyber crimes will continue to be primary threats for customers and businesses alike.
Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales drew big crowds this year, but there’s been less emphasis on Thanksgiving weekend as a whole over the past few years. That’s thanks in large part to a retail trend focused on online deals. Online shopping has continued to rise in recent years, even when Black Friday sales stayed stagnant or fell off. More than half of all shopping and purchasing in November and December this year will happen online, according to the National Retail Federation. In all, the NRF is predicting as much as $105 billion in online sales throughout the season, with retailers lining up daily or even hourly promotions across social media and via email.
As retailers attempt to lure online customers with great bargains, Cyber Monday is also a day for cyber crime as fraudsters try to lure in victims with offers that sound too good to be true. From fraudulent auction sales to gift cards, phishing, and social networking scams and more, cyber crime schemes are ever-evolving and, unfortunately, still successful.
Here are some tips from the FBI and cyber crime experts that you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber crime this holiday season:
• Use a website that you recognize and trust. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Research the deal in more detail.
• Shop on websites using secure SSL encryption (prefixed with https://). Avoid sharing sensitive information with websites that don’t use https.
• Only purchase merchandise only from reputable sellers, and be suspicious of websites that do not provide contact information.
• Do not respond to or click on links contained within unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
• When possible, consider using a credit card instead of a debit card. Debit cards are linked directly to your checking account.
• Beware of responding to shopping offers received by email. If you click a link that is supposed to navigate you to a new webpage, verify that the new URL matches that of the company you’re attempting to pay.
• Be cautious of e-mails claiming to contain pictures in attached files; the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.
• Log on directly to the official website for the business identified in the e-mail instead of linking to it from an unsolicited e-mail.
• Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify that the e-mail is genuine.
• If you are requested to act quickly or there is an emergency that requires your attention, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly.
According to information provided by the e-commerce security company Trustev, up to 40 percent of annual online fraud happens during the last three months of the year. This Cyber Monday—and every day—retail shoppers should exercise due diligence when bargain hunting online. Stay alert and beware of cyber criminals and their aggressive and creative ways to steal money and personal information.