Cyber Monday Scams – Avoid Becoming a Victim

2012 is forecast to be a record breaking year for Cyber Monday shopping, which means it will also likely become a record breaking year for Cyber Monday scams.

If you have an e-mail address, you’ve probably received at least one invitation to become a victim of Cyber Monday scams already. Shoppers lured by the temptation of great deals from trusted retailers might fall prey to the deal shopping mentality and be more willing to fall for these scams as the holidays pick up steam.

This is why criminals are so eager to take advantage of the shopping bonanza, and scams on Cyber Monday are proliferating. If Best Buy offers an HDTV for $600, you can bet that somewhere an identity thief is offering the same HDTV for $400, and Best Buy’s legitimate offer makes it seem possible that someone else could have a better deal.

So what can you do to ensure that you don’t miss out on a great deal, while avoiding becoming a victim of a Cyber Monday scam in the process? First of all, become familiar with the key ways to protect your identity online by reading Stumble Forward’s article How to Protect Your Identity Online. Next, familiarize yourself with these Cyber Monday scams and tips on fighting back.

Top Cyber Monday Scams of 2011

2011 was a record year for Cyber Monday scams simply because it was a record year for Cyber Monday sales. Both legitimate retailers and criminals were prepared to take advantage of the $29 billion that the National Retail Federation estimates shoppers spent on online purchases across November and December of last year. The following scams were especially pernicious.

  • iTunes Gift Certificate. This international scam informed shoppers that they had received a $50 iTunes gift certificate, and only needed to download an attached file to start spending the windfall. Unfortunately, the file was malicious, containing keylogging software for identity theft as well as code that hid programs and slowed the performance of infected computers.
  • Counterfeit goods. Last year, the Justice Department was prepared for Cyber Monday, and took down an estimated 150 sites offering counterfeit and knockoff products during the 24 hours of the Cyber Monday rush. Justice officials warn consumers to avoid sites with poor grammar, misspellings, and other errors that are key indicators of illegitimate businesses.
  • Failed UPS delivery. Shortly after Cyber Monday, an e-mail began circulating purporting to be from UPS regarding failed delivery of an order. Clicking a link or downloading a file to track the failed delivery resulted in nothing more than a free computer virus. The scam was so successful it’s still making the rounds.

2012 Cyber Monday Scams: Be On Guard

In addition to the three scams above, which are bound to be repeated this year, identity theft watchers and retailers are warning consumers about the following scams that are expected to reach record numbers of unsuspecting individuals this year.

  • Fake online storefronts. It is easier and less expensive than ever to launch a legitimate looking website with criminal intentions. These fake storefronts offer products at prices too good to be true, like $100 iPhone 5s, and either never deliver any product at all or deliver cheap foreign knockoffs.
  • Malicious e-cards and e-gift cards. Now that sending greeting cards and gifts online is an accepted practice, identity thieves are setting up free or reduced cost e-card sites. While your recipient might receive a card as promised, both you and the recipient will find your computers clogged with keylogging software and other nuisances in short order. If you shared your credit card information, you might also become a victim of identity theft.
  • Limited payment options. Identity thieves are catching on to the fact that wary shoppers are reluctant to use payment options like check and money transfer online. Criminals who want to force customers into using these less secure payments will try to convince consumers that the deal offered is only good if the retailer doesn’t have to pay credit card exchange fees, or use similar reasoning.

How to Protect Against Cyber Monday Scams

On Cyber Monday, most criminals will be after your credit card information. Learn more about how you can protect yourself against credit card fraud with Stumble Forward’s 6 ways to potentially avoid this crime, and follow these tips for extra safety against Cyber Monday scams.

  • Avoid shopping over wifi. If you’re using a wifi connection to do your Cyber Monday shopping, beware; identity thieves are becoming adept at exploiting new technologies to steal your credit information, and wifi is just one of the ways they do it. You can read about how criminals pull this off in Stumble Forward’s recent article on wifi sniffing and your risk.
  • Treat unsolicited emails with suspicion. Even if a Cyber Monday deal offer appears to come from a real retailer, be safe and navigate directly to the retailer’s website; avoid clicking on any emailed links. If it’s a special offer available only to select shoppers, you should be able to see the deal after you log in to the site manually. If you don’t already have a log in to a site offering such a deal, it’s most likely a scam.
  • Be secure. Not only should you have working anti-virus and firewalls in place, but you should also be careful to shop only at secure sites – those designated by “https” in the web address, rather than the standard “http” protocol. Moreover, you will be better protected if you use credit cards online, since credit cards have better fraud protection than debit cards do.

The final way to protect yourself against Cyber Monday scams is to avoid rushing into any deal. Considering the time and expense of a full blown identity theft incident, is it really worth it to save $50 or $100 on a product that you can buy elsewhere without the risk? Use common sense this Cyber Monday, and take a deep breath before committing with your personal information.

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