Tips for Avoiding Cyber Monday Scams

Avoid scams on Monday so you don't have a terrible Tuesday

Photo: Gregor Schuster

Are you opting in for the deals that hit the online retailers on what has become known as Cyber Monday? Be careful. Cyber Monday has become such a big deal that scammers and hackers are now targeting online shoppers with holiday-themed cyber attacks and scams for the frugal-minded. Here are some tips to help you avoid getting scammed on the biggest shopping day of the year.

Search For Deals On A Store's Website Instead Of A Search Engine

Many stores are now revealing the details of their Cyber Monday deals in 'preview ads' posted online. Scammers are capitalizing on this fact by creating phishing and other malicious sites that are disguised as retailers offering deals on the same popular Cyber Monday items being offered by the big box stores. The prices they offer are usually too good to be true and are meant to steer victims towards the scammers' phishing and malware sites.

If you are looking for a particular Cyber Monday deal, go directly to the store's website instead of looking it up in a search engine. This will help you avoid scammers that are blasting search engines to trick you into going to their scam site.

Beware of Email and Pop-up Coupons

Scammers may create tantalizing fake email coupons that appear to be from legitimate retailers but are actually designed to steal your credit card information. Scammers can use cross-site scripting attacks to convince you that you are on the real retailer's website while they steal your credit card information in the background as you attempt to make a purchase.

Again, the best way to avoid this type of attack is to go directly to a store's website and not via a link sent to you in an email or found in a pop-up message. Make sure you heed any cross-site scripting attack warnings provided by your web browser.

Watch for Social Media Shopping Scams

Scammers also target social media to help them proliferate their Cyber Monday scams. Scammers may use compromised Facebook accounts to post links to too-good-to-be-true deals that turn out to be scams. These posts may end up in the news feeds of the victim's friends. This helps spread the scam quickly as many people will repost something without checking it out first.

Scammers may also post malicious links disguised as coupons on group walls of shopping-related Facebook groups.

If you suddenly see your friend posting that they just got a free $100 Wal-Mart card just for punching a monkey in the face then their account has probably been hacked. If you want to help cut down on this type of scam you can change your Facebook privacy settings to prevent someone from posting on your wall without your approval. Check out our Facebook Security page to find out how.

Be On The Lookout for Malicious QR Codes

Have you seen those little pixelated bar codes that seem to be posted on everything from coffee cups to movie posters? They're called QR codes and they are meant to be scanned by your smartphone's camera. QR codes are often used by marketing folks to provide links to websites, coupons, and other information. Scammers and hackers are now hijacking these codes by making a code that links to a phishing or malware site, printing it on a sticker and putting it on top of a legitimate code in the real world or embedding it in a malicious e-mail.

Victims that scan the malicious code are taken to the malicious website. Using a QR code reader that shows the link before visiting it helps cut down on this type of scam. Norton's Snaps QR Reader is available for free and has the link preview feature needed to help you avoid this type of scam. 

Beef Up Your Computer Security Before Your Cyber Shopping Trip

Before you go shopping online on Cyber Monday, take some time on Sunday to beef up your computer's security. Install all of your operating system's recommended security updates and update your browser to the latest and most secure version as well.

You may also want to update your anti-virus definitions to make sure that no new nasty holiday-related malware slips past its watchful eye. Installing a second opinion malware scanner isn't a bad idea either.

Check out our Tips for Shopping Safely Online for some additional advice. Good luck with your holiday shopping and don't forget to buy your favorite geek something nice.