I know many people who look forward to Black Friday, but I have to admit I’m not a fan. I love the deals, but I don’t enjoy battling the cold and navigating a sea of people. That’s why I’ve become an advocate of Cyber Monday for holiday shopping. Huge discounts, one-day-only offers, and I can shop in my pajamas? I’m in.
However, I’m well aware that with those fantastic options come potential risks. The rise of Cyber Monday as a major shopping day attracts hackers and scammers in addition to deal hunters. Plus, with the hectic pace of the holidays, some people may not notice inconsistencies in their accounts for months.
Here are some ways you can protect yourself from Cyber Monday scams while also helping to prevent identity theft:
- Remember anti-phishing strategies: Around this time of year, you may get a deluge of emails about new, intriguing sites that promise big savings or gorgeous products. Not all of these emails are legitimate. Luring shoppers to rogue sites is a common phishing scam. These sites are designed to capture your financial information or to put malware into your system. Similar to other phishing attempts, these scams employ malicious links, so be sure you don’t click on any of them inadvertently – it’s a simple way that you can help to prevent identity theft.
- Do your research: Let’s say one of those new-to-you sites looks interesting, and you’d like to do some shopping. No need to completely avoid the unfamiliar — just be sure to do a little homework first. Rather than navigating to the site from an email, find it through a Google search. (You can also include the word “scam” or “rip-off” to see if it’s been reported as bogus.) If it passes that test, type the URL directly into your browser window and take a look around. The site should have an “about us” page, as well as contact information, physical address, order status, return policy and shipping options. If something doesn’t look right, shop elsewhere. Ideally, choose legitimate sites that you’ve ordered from in the past.
- Too good to be true? It probably is: While it’s true that e-tailers offer some notable deals on Cyber Monday, that means you may get 20 to 30 percent off regular prices. When that number starts climbing higher, watch out. Sites that advertise 90 percent discounts and feature in-demand technology are often scams. Either they’re advertised on a fake site designed to infect your computer with malware, or the site could be trying to unload counterfeit items or knockoffs. Whatever the case, steer clear of this common Cyber Monday scam.
- Watch for shipping notification scams: Personally, I shop at about 10 different sites on Cyber Monday to get everything I want. That means a deluge of shipping information quickly ends up in my email inbox. Scammers are relying on this fact when it comes to online holiday shopping, which is why they use fake FedEx and UPS messages to trick people into thinking there’s a problem with their packages. FedEx offers examples of common scams, and UPS also provides some valuable tips. My top advice? Refrain from opening any attachments or clicking on links unless you’re absolutely sure it’s about your order. If you want to do tracking, go directly to the shippers’ websites instead of navigating there through an email.
By taking your time to research new sites, avoid phishing emails, and recognize potential Cyber Monday scams, you’ll be able to shop with far more confidence. There’s nothing like defeating scammers and helping to prevent identity theft while still in your pajamas.
While you’re at it – we’ve created a Holiday Shopping Tip Sheet that you can print and share with your friends and colleagues. The more people following safe online shopping practices the better!