**Originally published November 25, 2015. Updated November 11, 2019.**
Millions of individuals in the United States look forward to Black Friday after Thanksgiving. While everyone can appreciate a good deal, some don’t enjoy battling the cold and navigating a sea of people. That’s why many have become an advocate of Cyber Monday for holiday shopping. During Cyber Monday in 2018, records were broken for U.S. eCommerce sales, generating $7.9 billion in revenue. Huge discounts, one-day-only offers, and I can shop in my pajamas? I’m in.
However, many of those fantastic options come with 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 on this year’s hot products. Not all 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 inject malware into your system. Like other phishing attempts, these scams employ malicious links. Be sure you don’t click on any of them inadvertently – it’s a simple way that you can help to avoid having your personally identifiable information (PII) used fraudulently in an identity theft scheme.
- Do your research:Let’s say one of those new-to-you sites looks interesting, and you would 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 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 30 to 50 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:The abundance of deals on the web results in individuals making purchased at about 10 different sites on Cyber Monday to get everything they need. That means a deluge of shipping information quickly ends up in their 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 positive 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, not clicking on phishing emails, and recognizing potential Cyber Monday scams, you’ll be able to shop with far more confidence. There’s nothing like defeating scammers and helping to avoid 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!