Cyber Monday Scams That You Should Avoid

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On Cyber Monday, millions of people will be searching online for the best deals on the hottest new products. Last year, consumers spent nearly $20 billion in online sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With so many people all around the world surfing the net and using their credit cards and other personal information to buy products, there is tremendous opportunity for scammers to take advantage of eager shoppers hunting for bargains.

“As a consumer, it’s important to pay attention to detail while shopping online and pay attention to your surroundings,” said Yonathan Klijnsma, a researcher at RiskIQ. “There are usually clues that can help you identify something potentially malicious.”

According to Fox News, there are five primary Cyber Monday scams to avoid this holiday season.

One scam that is increasingly popular is the launching of fake apps, a sleek way for scammers to entice consumers to download malware onto their device. Often these apps will imitate major retail outlets, using similar names and logos that fool the unwary, and promise incredible deals on hot items.

“If it’s something you’re not familiar with, then you want to do your research before you put anything on your phone,” said Melanie McGovern with the Better Business Bureau. “If they’re telling you to download it through Facebook or download it through another third party, that’s when you know it’s time to step back and say maybe I don’t want to do this.”

Before you download a new app, you should check for any grammatical errors, don’t allow access to your location or social media profiles, only download from a verified source that you trust, and search online for reviews of the app before you download it, according to Consumer Reports.

Fake coupons, often circulated on social media, is another popular scam. Last November, a fake $150 coupon for Kohl’s was circulating the web, asking users to share a link on their social media to acquire it. Another bogus $200 Kroger coupon was also making the rounds, with a link to a site that asked consumers to take a “survey” that extracted personal information. To protect yourself from this scam, the Better Business Bureau recommends checking the expiration date of the coupon, remaining skeptical of logos, and verifying the coupon’s source.

“If a coupon comes to you in an email, hover your mouse over the link (without clicking) and the URL destination address should appear,” the Better Business Bureau states on the site. “If that address looks like a random assortment of number and letters, don’t click on it. Remember that there should be an ‘s’ after ‘http’ in the URL to indicate it’s a secure site. No ‘s’ may mean it’s a phishing attempt to get your information or to install malware on your computer.”

Phishing emails are one of the most tried-and-true popular scams. Like the fake coupons being circulated on social media, the phishing emails will enter your inbox promising great deals or asking you to update personal information or fix some kind of problem on a popular online retailer’s site. The email will provide a link that asks you to enter personal information.

“Consumers should remember that urgent requests for personal information or call for immediate action are almost always a scam,” said a spokesperson for Bank of America.

Sometimes scammers will use the cache of large online retailers such as Amazon and eBay to sell counterfeit products. The scammer will place an ad for high-end products “sold on Amazon,” then provide a link that does not take you to an actual Amazon site. The scammer will then send a more basic product or not send anything at all, pocketing the consumer’s money on the way.

“If you’ve never heard of the seller before, look into them online and study their terms and conditions carefully before purchasing,” said Nick FitzGerald, a senior research fellow at security vendor ESET. “There have been countless tales of Facebook sellers delivering counterfeit goods, poor quality items or even outright failing to deliver the products after taking payment, so as always ‘buyer beware.'”

Another popular scam is “like farming” on Facebook. The scammer will promise gift cards, coupons, or prizes for “liking” or sharing their social media posts.

“When the scammer collects enough likes and shares, they will edit the post and add something malicious. That’s often a link to a website that downloads malware to your machine. Other times, once scammers reach their target number of likes, they strip the page’s original content and use it to promote spammy products. They may also resell the page on the black market. These buyers can use it to spam followers or harvest the information Facebook provides,” the BBB explains on its website.

So while you search for great deals this Cyber Monday, be sure to search smart and safe.