My SA/San Antonio Express-News
By Madison Iszler
As promotional emails flood your inbox and advertisements take over your social media feeds this weekend, watch out for scam artists.
About 164 million people plan to shop between Thanksgiving Day and Nov. 26, also known as Cyber Monday, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. They predict that 75 million will capitalize on digital deals on Cyber Monday.
People plan to spend more: Adobe Digital Insights predicts shoppers will shell out $23.4 billion online over the five-day holiday weekend, up 19.4 percent from last year. Online sales during Cyber Monday are projected to break records and reach an estimated $7.8 billion, a 17.6 percent uptick from 2017.
It’s a lucrative opportunity for cyber thieves, and “attackers will capitalize,” cyber security firm RiskIQ warned in a recent report. Phony mobile apps and websites will try to trick people into disclosing personal information and downloading harmful software, the report said.
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RiskIQ searched the term “Cyber Monday” in app stores and found that 4.6 percent of the 959 results were malicious. They also discovered more than 6,000 harmful apps pretending to be official sources for popular retailers.
To better protect themselves and their money, people should stick to app stores like Google’s and Apple’s and be wary of apps that ask for access to text messages, passwords and other information.
“Just because an app appears to have a good reputation doesn’t make it so. Rave reviews can be forged, and a high amount of downloads can simply indicate a threat actor was successful in fooling a lot of victims,” wrote the authors of the RiskIQ report. “Before downloading an app, be sure to take a look at the developer — if it’s not a brand you recognize or has a strange appearance or spelling, think twice.”
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Use encrypted websites, check your credit card statements and don’t buy from websites you’ve never heard of, “even if it has the one item you’ve been looking for,” said George Kelemen, president and CEO of the Texas Retailers Association. Parents should be aware of what purchases they might be making through gaming apps, he said.
“Use common sense,” Kelemen said.
Bret Piatt, CEO of San Antonio-based cyber security company Jungle Disk, warned people not to click on links in promotional emails.
Visit the retailer’s website directly instead, he said. Make sure the website you’re using to shop starts with “HTTPS” and has a lock symbol in the task bar, the Better Business Bureau cautions.
Use a credit card rather than a debit card when shopping because the former offers more protection, Piatt said. Shoppers can go a step further and get a pre-paid card for the amount they plan to spend or a card with lower limits.
When shopping online, have packages delivered to a place where someone can pick them up so a thief can’t grab them from outside your front door, he said.
“There will be people who are looking to go shopping on other people’s porches,” Piatt said.
Forty-two percent of those surveyed recently by consulting firm Deloitte said they had experienced a digital security breach. People are becoming more cognizant of the risks, said Matt Marsh, the firm’s retail sector leader.
“The public is becoming very aware of the importance of protecting their data,” he said. “It’s kind of happening to everybody.”
He advised people to be wary of using public WiFi or clicking on links in email promotions. Check the spelling of a website because cyber criminals will try to spoof sites, Marsh said.
Shoppers should be ware of buying from third-party vendors because there’s a higher risk of fraud, said Ana Serafin Smith, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.
Wherever you shop, she recommended reading the fine print on return policies and checking what items are eligible to be returned.
“Do your research,” she said.