Like most big sales events, the term “Cyber Monday” was made up by a marketer. The term was first used in 2005 to describe the Monday after Thanksgiving, when people returned to work and shopped from their office computers.
It has become so big that sales on Cyber Monday last year increased a whopping 12.1 percent over 2015, to nearly $3.5 billion, making it the largest online sales day in history, according to Adobe Data. More than 56 percent of consumers surveyed by RetailMeNot say they plan to make a purchase on Cyber Monday this year, compared with 39 percent in 2016.
Retailers are aware of the huge increases in Cyber Monday online shopping and have made sure to fill consumer in boxes and social media with special offers. Unfortunately, because of the huge volume, cyber criminals also find the season to be a perfect time to attack unsuspecting consumers with bogus offers designed to take them to a malicious website to “sell” non-existent merchandise and gain access to credit card numbers and personal information.
Now, more than ever, it is really important that you be safe when you shop online. Here are a few things you can do to recognize the risks and protect yourself.
• Make sure you are dealing with reputable sites. Never, ever click on the shopping link in an email you’ve received. Scammers develop authentic looking shopping websites that feature the season’s hottest items at incredible prices. They simply want to get your credit card information so they can shop with it. It is often wisest to go directly to a trusted store or retailers’ website.
• Beware of pop-ups and other digital ads. Scammers use pop-ups that contain fake coupons or direct you to malicious websites. Never enter your personal data on a pop-up screen.
• Don’t shop online with a debit card. If you would happen to shop a fraudulent website, scammers there could directly access your checking and savings accounts. Shopping with credit cards offers greater protection. You may also consider using a payment system such as PayPal which shields your sensitive data, so hackers won’t have access.
• Update your operating systems, Internet browsers, and other software on your personal computers and mobile devices. These updates install patches to close off holes in your system that scammers can exploit.
• Don’t use public Wi-Fi to shop. Having a nice cup of coffee at your favorite coffee shop may seem like a soothing thing to do, but it could open you up to hackers. Make sure the shop’s Wi-Fi network you are joining is legitimate, requiring a password sign-in furnished by the shop. Never connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Hackers love those!
• Make sure you are using a secure, encrypted website when shopping online. Look for the padlock and “HTTPS” in the upper left-hand corner of your browser address bar. Seeing both ensures the information passed between your computer and the host server will remain private. DO NOT enter any personal or private information if the site address shows “HTTP” rather than “HTTPS.”
If you are set to participate and what is expected to be the largest Cyber Monday ever, following these tips will keep fraudsters from cashing in on your activities.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.