Everybody's getting excited about all the sweet deals coming up on the biggest shopping day of the year, but don't get too excited — you might get ripped off. This week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued its annual list of holiday shopping tips. With warnings against fraudulent classifieds and auctions, fake gift cards and an uptick in phishing attacks that can compromise your bank account, the FBI might as well call the annual list of holiday shopping scams. Following an explanation and (very) brief history of Cyber Monday — founded in 2005, who knew? — the agency's Internet Crime Complaint Center explains, "Scammers try to prey on Black Friday or Cyber Monday bargain hunters by advertising 'one day only' promotions from recognized brands. Consumers should be on the watch for too good to be true e-mails from unrecognized Web sites."
The feds do go on to list a number of useful and several less-than-useful tips about how to avoid being scammed. If you follow the regular rules of safe internetting — don't open shady email attachments; double-check URLs to make sure you're not giving your log-in info to a shell site; "Remember if it looks too good to be true, it probably is." — you'll probably be fine.
To protect yourself against the more nuanced ways of of getting duped, we offer this brief guide:
Don't get over your head. One of the big dangers of diving headfirst into emptying your savings account in one day is that you stand the chance of becoming overwhelmed, making rash decisions and well, wasting your savings account on an iPad that's actually a block of wood. The Better Business Bureau warns, "You want to make sure that you get the deal that you are promised so that it all works out for you in the end." Simple as that.
Don't adjust your expectations. Or in Lifehacker's words this "Remember the Classic Manipulative Sales Pitches." As the FBI explains, the scammers dream on Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the naïve coupon-cutting American that thinks they'll miss the deal of lifetime if they actually take the time to think it through, but like on any other day at the mall, it's best to think things through.
- Try out some apps… cautiously. This is sort of a double-edged sword. In the smartphone age, big box retailers and con artists alike are creating handy GPS-enabled apps that will steer you and your wallet right to the check-out counter by way of every single "Don't miss!" gadget you can think of. This is especially true for shopping online. Find some trustworthy recommendations from Forbes, CNN Money and Lifehacker.
If you're still paranoid about the big shopping day, check out this less-than-brief but helpful infographic from the cyber security firm Veracode: