If you aren’t a fan of the Black Friday crowds, you’re probably excited to score some shopping deals on Cyber Monday. You’re not alone: online shoppers are projected to spend $82 billion this year during November and December—a 15 percent increase over last year’s holiday revenue. While it’s true that Cyber Monday provides an opportunity to save, it’s also the biggest day of the year for online scammers. Avoid getting caught in their web by following the tips below. They will help you keep your finances and credit score safe.
1. Use a secure connection.
Online shopping carries an increased risk of credit card fraud and identity theft, especially if you are using a poor Internet connection. Protect yourself by getting serious about secure Wi-Fi. Avoid using shared networks and make sure your home connection is password protected, preventing your neighbors logging in as well. Take your efforts a step further by only shopping at sites that provide an encrypted connection (you’ll see https:// in the address box).
2. Install antivirus software.
An increased risk of malware means that it’s time to safeguard your computer. Protect your personal information by installing the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software (AVG offers free protection). This simple precaution will prevent cyber criminals from accessing your credit card information and other private details.
3. Visit sites you trust.
Bob’s Computer Warehouse may be offering 80 percent off laptops, but how reliable is the website? If you’ve never shopped with a retailer before, it’s unwise to provide your mailing address and credit card information to an untested source. Stick with retailers you know and trust. If you’re still unsure, visit SiteJabber.com and enter the store’s URL. You’ll find user reviews and other information about the site’s reliability.
4. Watch out for pop-ups.
Pop-ups are a breeding ground for online scams. A good rule of thumb: Don’t click on anything you didn’t search for yourself. A scammer could be attaching himself to a secure site to lure you in with a seemingly honest ad.
5. Beware of add-ons.
Scams often come in the form of email. A bad retailer may contact you after a purchase and invite you to fill out a membership form, warranty deal or other document that a) costs money and b) was not part of your original purchase.Don’t fall for these bait-and-switch situations. If you are worried, call the company and ask them to explain the email. If it affects the worthiness of your original purchase (e.g., you bought a TV that did not come with a warranty) ask the store to cancel your order and move on.
6. Don’t fall for fake deals.
Cyber Monday may provide deep discounts, but retailers aren’t going to provide unrealistic prices. Use some common sense here. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. You might love a buy-one-get-one free xbox deal, but that doesn’t mean it exists. Stick to reliable online sources and call the store to confirm any suspicious web content.
The bottom line: Shopping safely is imperative, especially during the holidays. Play it smart this year by making wise choices.