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Cyber Monday is a happy hunting ground for hackers. Protect yourself from cyber crime next shopping season with these three simple steps.

Cyber Monday is big business. In 2015, total digital sales that day topped $3 billion, going down in the record books as the heaviest online spending day in history. That’s up 12 percent from 2014.

However, buyers must beware as hackers use Cyber Monday as a hunting ground for unsuspecting shoppers. If you doubt how deep the cyber security threat runs, consider that 64 percent of organizations recently reported an increase in cyber crime on that day.

Cyber criminals are getting more creative when it comes to separating shoppers from their hard-earned cash, with even the most well-known brands and their sophisticated network security systems falling victim to Cyber Monday attacks.

For example, the online retail giant Amazon was hit when hackers fooled Facebook users into sharing phony links in return for fake $500 Amazon vouchers.

The moral of the story is: If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. To keep your shopping experience safe next Cyber Monday, learn more about hacker tricks and follow these three simple steps:

1. Ignore Unsolicited Emails

Phishing is a technique favored by cyber criminals that involves unsolicited emails or social media messages that attempt to trick readers into revealing personal information, like usernames, passwords and bank account details. They often direct shoppers to fake landing pages that resemble the website of a selected big brand – complete with prominently displayed company logo – and ask for various personal information in return for an unbelievable deal.

The keyword here is “unbelievable.” Never open unsolicited emails or social media messages – or click on associated links – no matter how tempting the deal is.

Instead, open your web browser and visit the official website of the company in question to independently verify whether it is in fact offering the advertised deal.

2. Update Your Passwords

The only thing that separates hackers from your online shopping account is your password. Take some time before Cyber Monday madness sets in to change the passwords on any accounts you have with online retailers.

Don’t use personal information – such as pet names – that can be obtained easily from your Facebook page. And, generally speaking, the longer your password is, the better. Go for at least 10 characters, with symbols and numbers included to throw hackers off.

Or better still, limit your online shopping activities to retailers who use double (also called ‘two-factor’) authentication. After you enter your password, these sites will send you a unique SMS code that you’ll need to access your account. Check the site’s policies and procedures section to find out if they offer double authentication.

3. Avoid Unsecure Websites

Most major online retailers have implemented sophisticated network security systems to protect their customers’ personal data from cyber criminals attempting to hack into their records. However, high-level cyber security measures can be expensive, and beyond the reach of smaller players.

When dealing with smaller online retailers, never enter your credit card details directly into a site. Rather, use PayPal or another online payment service to keep your financial info secure.

The URL bar in your web browser will also reveal if the website is secure. The page address should begin with https (the ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’) and there should be a green padlock icon in the address bar indicating it’s safe to shop.

Thankfully, more and more online retailers are investing in employees with technical skills to safeguard their consumers against cyber attacks. This Cyber Monday practice a little caution and you’ll shop in hacker-free safety.

Have you experienced a cyber attack while shopping online? Share your story in the comments section below.


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3 Easy Ways to Protect Yourself from Cyber Crime on Cyber Monday
Discover why you need to protect yourself and your online shopping activities from cyber crime next Cyber Monday.