A recent report by the Metro Creative Connection states that in 2010, consumers spent more than $1 billion on Cyber Monday.
“First used within the e-commerce community during the 2005 holiday season, the term Cyber Monday was coined after online retailers noticed a substantial increase in sales on the Monday following Thanksgiving,” The report states. “This was largely credited to men and women returning to work on Monday after the long holiday weekend and using their company’s secure and high-speed Internet connections to make holiday purchases. In fact, many employers have begun to block certain Web sites in an effort to keep employees focused on work and not on their holiday shopping.”
Nathan Underwood, owner of Cartersville’s Cybertech Cafe, offered some suggestions to ensure a safe online shopping experience.
“If you go directly to [a retailer’s official website], you should be fairly safe. Due diligence though is going to be important because a lot of criminals out there really rely heavily on phishing scams where [the attacker] sends an email saying, ‘It’s the sale of the century from [a retailer], just click this link,’” Underwood said. “Never click links from an email, the email might look legitimate, the site you land on may look legitimate, but the reality is it’s an attack site and they’re there to rip you off.”
When shopping at a retailer’s official website, Underwood said to make sure to have the site is secure before making any purchases, taking heed to any warnings about the site’s authenticity or security.
“A very popular attack is called ‘a man in the middle’ and it’s just as its name suggests — if you go to [an official website] to do some shopping and you get some error that the [website’s] security certificate is not valid or was issued by an unknown authority, very likely what has happened is someone has placed himself in between your computer and the website and they’re filtering all your data,” Underwood said. “Whatever information you’re putting out there, they’re gathering and that’s the best-case scenario.
“The worst-case scenario is you’re on their site directly plugging the information into them and [the official website] has no idea you tried to place an order.”
He warned of the increasingly-popular Cool Exploit Kit criminals use, which exposes, for example, a vulnerability in the update for Java 7. The Cybertech Cafe’s Facebook page will have updates soon.
The Better Business Bureau reiterates Underwood’s advice on safe online shopping this holiday season:
1. Protect your computer — A computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.
2. Shop on trustworthy websites — Shoppers should start with BBB to check on the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction. Always look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trustmarks” on retailer websites and click on the seals to confirm that they are valid.
4. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true — Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a “deal” that might cost them dearly in the end.
5. Beware of phishing — Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an e-mail, BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.
6. Confirm your online purchase is secure — Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, BBB recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page and select “Properties.” This will let you see the real URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted.
7. Pay with a credit card — It’s best to use a credit card, because under federal law, the shopper can dispute the charges if he or she doesn’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it. Never wire money and only shop locally on sites like Craigslist.
8. Keep documentation of your order — After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by e-mail – BBB recommends saving a copy of the Web page and any e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.
9. Check your credit card statements often — Don’t wait for paper statements; BBB recommends consumers check their credit card statements for suspicious activity by either calling credit card companies or by checking statements online regularly.
10. Know your rights — Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goods aren’t shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund. There is no general three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject merchandise if it’s defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, it’s the company’s policies that determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.