Cyber Monday and Identity Theft


[Image Credit: Fabio Lanari (Internet1.jpg by Rock1997 modified.) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons]

If you didn’t take part in Black Friday, standing in lines that started forming on Thanksgiving this year, or even Small Business Saturday or any shopping on Sunday, you might find yourself tempted with the ease (and the discounts) that come with Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday isn’t a holiday. It’s a fairly recent (coined in 2005) marketing term used to describe the Monday after Thanksgiving. In the last few years, Cyber Monday has become synonymous with ecommerce and online shopping. Websites offer discounts and deals like free shipping to draw in consumers who didn’t want to sacrifice part of their Thanksgiving day holiday or to get up early on Friday to brave cold weather and long lines.

Along with the ease of shopping from your desktop, laptop, or wireless device (you may have even done some shopping on your lunch break) come some hazards. While shopping at brick-and-mortar stores brings a degree of risk, the greater threats lie with shopping via the Internet. You run the risk of not only having your credit card information compromised, but possibly having your identity stolen as well. Here’s what you should look out for when it comes to Cyber Monday or any other day you make a purchase online.

  1. Is that email deal really from your favorite website? Email scams remain popular, and for good reason — they’re effective. There are scammers who will try to take advantage by using the logos of famous brands and websites, as well as spoofing or mimicking their email addresses to try to get you to click on a fraudlent link. If you get an email with a deal that seems too good to miss out on, go directly to the retailer’s website. If the deal is legitimate, you’ll see it promoted there.
  2. Is the online checkout secure? One easy way to tell is whether or not the URL (the web address) starts with HTTPS. This means that security is in place for the website. For an example, our clients have a secure log in for our website. Not only can they tell from the green padlock and the HTTPS that it’s secure, but also from our privacy policy and our compliance with TRUSTe, a privacy management company.
  3. Make sure your antivirus protection is up to date. There are a number of reputable antivirus programs available and your computer should have some sort of firewall or other safeguards installed. Modern operating systems do come with a level of protection — the operating system will walk you through the process to make sure you’re keeping your online activities safe.
  4. Check your browser settings. Modern browsers also have settings that will help you stay safe online. Many browsers will warn you before you visit a website that is suspected of being infected with a virus, keeping your computer away from an infected site and your information safe.
  5. Don’t make purchases using unsecured Wifi. Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have enabled us to go online wherever there is a wifeless signal. When it comes to shopping or logging in to check your bank balance, make sure that you are on a private network. How do you know if it’s private? It will require a username and password. There will also be a padlock next to the wifi symbol.
  6. Be sure to check your credit card statements regularly. This is smart advice regardless of the season. Looking over your credit card statement for suspicious activity and unauthorized charges will help you to minimize damage and reclaim your identity. You can check your statements online to catch errors that much faster — just be sure that you are accessing your bank or lender’s website directly and that it’s a secured log in, as mentioned above.

These are only some of the steps you can take to help protect yourself when shopping online during Cyber Monday or any other day. You should always exercise care when giving out any information via the Internet, especially personally identifiable information or your credit card number. Know what to look for and only visit trusted, secure sites when placing an order. Being aware is one of the best defenses against identity theft.