TAMPA, Fla. — While you're searching for great deals on Cyber Monday, there are people out there looking to get a hold of your credit card or banking information.
Last year, more than 2.1 million fraud reports were made to the Federal Trade Commission. Among those reports, online shopping scams were second at the top of the list. Those are only the ones that are officially reported.
"There's over two million scam websites in action right now, according to Google. That's scary knowing two million opportunities for scammers to get your information are out there," said Charlotte Kibert, a cyber security expert at Digital Hands, a cyber security firm in Tampa.
While the shopping holiday is great opportunity to search for good deals on anything from clothing to electronics, it's important to stay vigilant while you're shopping. Kibert gave us a few tips to make sure your information stays safe while you're loading up your virtual cart:
- Be wary of where news of deals come from: Did you subscribe to marketing emails from a certain store? Have you shopped from them before? If an e-mail about deals is coming to you unsolicited, don't click links directly from the email. Go to your web browser, type in the website on your own and then search for the deal on the site itself to see if it's there. Be cautious about social media ads for deals too. "There are a lot of sites designed to look just like the real deal, so be really careful before clicking on a link, it's best to type something in yourself and be aware of any different spelling changes in the URL when you hover over a link," said Kibert.
- Don't give out extra personal information: "You need to give them shipping and billing information, but don't give them more information than you need to. The last thing you want is to give them a profile of your identity they can use for other purposes," said Kibert.
- Don't pay with debit cards: Debit cards offer a direct connection to your bank account where your money is stored. They also offer less protection from fraudulent charges than credit cards. Many companies now offer a service where they provide virtual credit card numbers specifically used for online shopping, so the card information cannot be used more than once even if a scammer gets a hold of it. Reach out to your credit card company to see if that's an option for you.
- Trust your gut: If a website looks different than it has in the past, has strange pop-up ads, asks you for more information than you're used to or doesn't have any contact information for customer service, don't input your information into the site to buy anything. If a deal truly seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Turn on notifications: It may be irritating to get an alert every time a friend posts on social media, but setting alerts for your credit and debit cards can be extremely helpful. Getting notifications on your phone for any charges made on your credit cards can be helpful in identifying fraud more quickly and allow you to take action before thieves spend more of your hard-earned money.