For those of us who don't want to be trampled at the door of a box store on Black Friday, there's Cyber Monday, the day we can feed the capitalist consumption machine from the safety of our homes, phones, and cubicles.
And while we may not need to worry as much about our physical wellbeing on Cyber Monday, our online health is at a far greater risk. Shopping scams, Wi-Fi hackers, and data theft can ruin your holiday deal treasure hunt. So before you start getting click-happy this Cyber Monday, here are a few tips to keep your online shopping safe:
Cyber Monday security starts at home. So if you have the day off or "called in sick," make sure your home Wi-Fi network is secure. Your home network should be password protected, and you should run regular virus scans to make sure your Wi-Fi network is free from intrusion and your computer is protected from online predators. You should also install up-to-date antivirus software, anti-spyware, anti-spam filters, and have a firewall in place.
And beware free Wi-Fi. While shopping on our phone at a coffee shop, airport, or other public Wi-Fi networks may be convenient, those networks are not necessarily secure and can be more susceptible to hacking.
The Holiday Season is also scam season, so start with your email inbox. Avoid suspect emails and beware online phishing scams, especially on Cyber Monday when retailers are flooding you with deals. Delete any suspicious-looking email messages, especially if they ask for more personal information. Don't click email links asking you to login to any account.
And by now you should know to avoid pop-up ads. Yes, they're annoying, but they can also lead to security threats as well. Try to "X" out of them whenever you get one and don't be tempted to click on it -- even if it sounds like a great deal, it may not be legitimate.
Once you've decided to make a purchase, there are a few more keys to Cyber Monday security. Make sure any site asking for personal or financial information has "https" in the URL. When placing your order, double-check the URL to make sure that your information is being entered on a secure site.
If you can, make online purchases with a credit card, as opposed to using wire or bank transfers, or a debit card. Many credit cards have built-in fraud protection against identity theft, and you can always dispute any suspect charges.
And if the retailer is asking that you set up an account, make sure that you use a unique and strong password that others will be less likely to crack. This entails using a combination of both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. This will help protect you from a variety of online and computer scams.
For more information about protecting yourself and your finances while shopping online, check out FindLaw's comprehensive section on Online Scams.