How to stay safe as you shop on Cyber Monday and beyond

With Black Friday almost here and Cyber Monday just around the corner, there's no denying that the holiday season is upon us; and for many people that means online shopping. For Identity Thieves and scammers, though, this is the time of year to roll out new ways of going after your identity, your money and your credit.

WalletPop has already warned you about the numerous ways that online scam artists are trying to dupe you with fakes, but we wanted to make sure that you are as educated as you can be when it comes to safeguarding your information and money. We went to three industry experts to find out how to stay safe on Cyber Monday and through the rest of your holiday shopping.

To get a better idea of just how much phishing and identity theft scams will increase in the next month, we spoke to Lyn Oakes, Chief Marketing Officer of Trusted ID.

"We do expect that there will be more traffic being generated by identity thieves because of the holiday season than has been in the last several months," Oakes said in a phone interview. "We think phishing emails are going to rise."

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Phishing is one of the most common forms of identity theft. Common phishing email subjects, especially during big shopping days like Cyber Monday, are requests to:
  • Verify billing information
  • Update passwords and records
  • Or to take action regarding something they claim you purchased.
If you get any of these requests, and feel they might be valid, you should pick up the phone and call the company directly rather than acting on any requests from the email.

Lyn cautions that the best way to stay safe is to use anti-phishing software and to think about what a site is asking you for. One example of anti-phishing technology is built directly into Mozilla's Firefox browser. Because it is getting harder and harder to identify malicious websites just by looking at them, Mozilla Firefox will pop up a warning to tell you -- in no uncertain terms, that you are trying to go to a page that has been reported as a forgery.

We wanted to know how up to date this protection is, so we tracked down Johnathan Nightingale, manager of Firefox's front-end features team, to explain how it works. "In the background, every half hour or so, Firefox goes out and downloads an updated list of known sites that are trying to attack your computer or defraud you in some way," said NIghtingale in a phone interview. This near constant updating allows Firefox to check every site you attempt to visit and make sure it isn't trying to ruin your holidays.

Nightingale was most passionate about the need to keep your software up to date. His efforts are wasted, otherwise.

Our final word of warning comes from Sid Kirchheimer, who wrote the book on scams; literally, with his book, Scam Proof Your Life: 377 Smart Ways to Protect You & Your Family from Ripoffs, Bogus Deals & Other Consumer Headaches. Sid, who's partnering with to increase fraud awareness, gave us several tips geared toward high end purchases like cars. While you might not think of buying a car during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend, it's actually one of the best days to buy a car; with discounts much lower than buyer's typically see.

First off, "Don't Rush." cautions Sid. "A seller pushing to rush a transaction could be trying to prey on a consumer's desire for the item." This is especially prudent advice when it comes to buying expensive items during a limited time offer like this hot shopping weekend.

Sid also warns against ignoring common sense, "If a shopping experience does not feel right, pay attention to the warning signs and verify that the site and seller are safe before proceeding with the transaction." Good advice for any transaction but especially so when you're already busy with other holiday events.

To learn more, read WalletPop's 8 ways to save time and money on holiday shopping, and be sure to check out our Black Friday deals.
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