Avoid Cyber Monday Scams

  • ‘Tis the Season

    Cyber Monday, the online retailers’ answer to Black Friday, has become increasingly popular since its launch in 2005. The National Retail Federation, who’s responsible for what has now become the busiest online shopping day of the year, estimates that 96.5 million Americans shopped on Cyber Monday in 2009, up from 85 million in 2008. And, with holiday spending expected to increase this year, it’s safe to say more shoppers will take to the Web on Monday. While many Americans may appreciate the convenience of shopping from their home computers, some see it as a chance to scam others out of their cash or, worse, their identity. “Scammers take advantage of the shopping frenzy,” says Barry Boone, who runs deals sites CurrentCodes.com and DealHunting.com. So, MainStreet took a look at the scams Cyber Monday shoppers need to worry about this year and offers some tips for shopping online this holiday season. Photo Credit:  istolethetv
    Phony Promotional E-mails
  • Phony Promotional E-mails

    Scammers use Cyber Monday as an excuse to bombard inboxes with phony promotions. Holiday shoppers should expect to receive e-mails that advertise deals that are, in fact, too good to be true. When these deals are being offered by a vendor you’ve never heard of, they are fairly easy to spot as scams. However, some promotional e-mails may even appear to come from reputable retailers. Scammers often use legitimate businesses as a front to lure people in, Risk Management Specialist Denise Richardson explains. Generally, these phishing scams coerce you into clicking on an embedded link in either an e-mail or on a website to get a hold of your personal information or to cause you to inadvertently download viruses onto your computer, which scammers can use to steal passwords and other information. Photo Credit: comedy_nose
    How to Protect Yourself
  • How to Protect Yourself

    Avoid clicking on any type of malicious link by heading to a retailer’s website directly. “Pull up the browser, type in the url and get there that way,” Boone says. If you are a fan of sites that aggregate Cyber Monday deals, stick to CyberMonday.com, which is endorsed by the National Retail Federation.  Otherwise, if it doesn’t look legitimate, don’t click on it. Photo Credit: Keith Williamson
    Blackhat SEO
  • Blackhat SEO

    You don’t only have to worry about malicious links appearing in your inbox. Savvy scammers have also found ways to manipulate search engines like Google or Yahoo so that unsecured sites or infected links pop up higher in your search results. The technique is termed Blackhat Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it preys on our propensity to trust the first few links that pop up on our favorite search engine. To avoid stumbling upon a compromised website, don’t use search engines to find the best deals. Stick instead to major retailers or chains when doing your Cyber Monday shopping and, of course, visit their sites directly. Photo Credit: jrbrusseau
    FedEx/UPS Delivery Scam
  • FedEx/UPS Delivery Scam

    Those who are having their online purchases shipped to them (or indeed anyone expecting a gift by mail) can easily fall prey to a FedEx/UPS scam that has become popular during the past few years. Prospective victims receive an e-mail appearing to be from either delivery service. “They’ll either say that your package couldn’t be delivered or that you need to insure it before they’ll put in on the truck,” Richardson explains. The goal is to either get the target to click on a malicious link or, worse yet, to provide a credit card number to pay for the shipping insurance. Photo Credit: brosner
    How to Protect Yourself
  • How to Protect Yourself

    FedEx and UPS don’t require you pay for insurance on your holiday gifts after the fact. However, if you are concerned about the status of your package, you should go directly to the delivery service’s website to inquire whether or not it has actually been delivered. “They’ll provide you with a tracking number right after you’ve made your purchase,” Richardson says, advising that you use this number to verify shipment on the Internet or over the phone. Photo Credit: skampy
    Fake Gift Cards
  • Fake Gift Cards

    The holiday season makes it easy for scammers to get their hands on unauthorized and empty gift cards, since retailers practically paint their stores with them come Christmas. After pilfering the items from brick-and-mortar stores, they attempt to turn a profit by selling the worthless (because they are only activated at the register) cards online. As such, Richardson advises against buying gift cards on the Web this Cyber Monday. “Purchase them directly from the store,” she says. “And, if possible, ask the clerk for ones that are stored behind the counter.”  Some scammers will write down the codes on the back on displayed gift cards and use them online at a later date in the hopes that they’ve been activated. Photo Credit:  playerx
    Auction House Scams
  • Auction House Scams

    According to Richardson, buying items from an auction site like eBay or Craigslist can always be risky since you never know who the seller is. These sites become more overrun with scammers than usual during the holiday shopping season, as they try to capitalize on people turning to auctions to hunt for the best deals. Again, the old adage applies: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” Boone says. Photo Credit:  tastybit
    Reasonably-priced items
  • Reasonably-priced items

    But Richardson explains that scammers have changed their practices in recent years to feature hot gift items at a moderate, as opposed to all-time-low, price to attract more unsuspecting victims. “The device is priced below street price, of course, but it’s usually not so cheap as to raise any red flags,” she says, citing a September scam in which two Idaho men used a reasonably-priced iPad to lure victims to a pick-up location so they could rob them. (The felons were later apprehended by a sheriff who spotted a similarly shady deal online.) Needless to say, Richardson suggests avoiding auction sites on Cyber Monday. Photo Credit:  Yutaka Tsutano
    Compromised Websites
  • Compromised Websites

    Shopping on a compromised website effectively hands your credit card information over to scammers out patrolling the Web to steal either your identity or your hard-earned funds. While shopping on Cyber Monday, you can avoid falling victim to identity theft or credit card scams by sticking to secure websites. According to Richardson, you can tell a website is secure by looking for a padlock symbol either on the top of bottom of its homepage. Some virus protection software will also rate a site when you load it into your browser, with a yellow or a flag indicating that it may, in fact, be corrupted. Additionally, when you’re ready to buy, the website’s URL should switch to “https://...” before asking for your billing information. The added “s” in the URL indicates that what you are typing into the site is showing up as encrypted information. “If your information is not going to be encrypted, back out and don’t buy anything,” Richardson says. Photo Credit:  Qfamily
    Shocking Facts about Identity Theft
  • Shocking Facts about Identity Theft

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