A Parent’s Guide to Safe Holiday Shopping on Cyber Monday

Money is tight for most families during the holiday season. But moms and dads can snatch some fantastic deals on toys, clothes and electronics during Thanksgiving weekend. Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, is gradually gaining ground on Black Friday. ComScore reported that online spending in the U.S. on 2012 Cyber Monday reached $1.465 billion, up 17 percent from a year ago.

While online shopping means avoiding the crowds, it also leaves buyers open to a variety of attacks from hackers and scammers. Stay safe while shopping online for your family with these tips:

Don’t Click E-Mail Links

Most avid shoppers know better than to click on email links in their inbox. Following a link from a phony email is one of the oldest forms of online scams. Often times, the scammer entices you by offering an incredible deal, followed by a link to a scam site. According to the Microsoft Safety & Security Center, these phishing email messages, phone calls and websites are created to get your money by stealing personal information or installing viruses or malicious software on your system. Look for signs of fraud, such as poor spelling or grammar. Perform your own online search to find the deal for yourself.

Shop Sites You Trust

Major retailers offer deep discounts on Cyber Monday, making it difficult to determine which deals are real and which are too good to be true. Avoid buying from scammers by only shopping at sites that you know and trust. Macy’s and other major retailers offer special deals and promotions on a full scope of merchandise, from handbags for your teen to watches for your husband. The National Retail Federation’s CyberMonday.com also features a list of legitimate retailers that offer Cyber Monday deals.

Ensure the Site is Secure

The Better Business Bureau urges shoppers to confirm that their purchase is secure before entering payment information when shopping online. Normal web pages have URLs that begin with the letters “http.” However, only a secure connection will display a URL address that begins with an “https.” Depending on your web browser, shoppers can also check for the “Lock” icon often found in the lower-right corner of the browser window.

Update Your System

Nothing can guarantee the security of your computer, but there are several things you can do to drastically lower your risk of acquiring a virus. Keep your antivirus and malware protection software up-to-date and ensure that your firewall is enabled. Use trusted Web browsers, such as the latest versions of Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, as these browsers also offer protection against malicious activity. If you notice common signs of infection, such as your computer running slower than usual, freezing randomly or crashing frequently, use your antivirus software to remove the infection immediately.

Pay Your Bill with Plastic

Purchasing your online goods with plastic is almost always safer than using a bank transfer or other non-plastic method. Federal law allows you to dispute items on your credit card bill if you fail to receive your purchase, as opposed to non-plastic forms of payment from companies that may refuse to refund your stolen money. Also, most credit card companies provide customers with “zero liability”, meaning that you’re off the hook if a scammer uses your credit card to make fraudulent purchases.

Author: Dave Nielsen

I started using computers in 1978 on the Apple II and was first online (using my “high-speed” 1200 baud modem) in 1989. I’ve managed web sites for several Fortune 500 companies and for internet start-ups. Working for one of those start-ups is what brought me into the world of credit. I was part of the the executive team that ran QSpace, the first company to offer credit reports over the internet.

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