Cyber Monday excitement prompts online shopping security warnings

Shoppers cautioned to take care with web purchases in what could be busiest online shopping day ever.

Online shopping

Security experts are warning shoppers to be on their guard today, as cyber criminals prepare to take advantage of the surge in pre-Christmas online sales expected to take place.

Today has been dubbed "Cyber Monday", because of the sheer volume of online transactions that are expected to take place, as consumers crack on with their Christmas shopping using the contents of their November pay packets.

Credit card firm Visa said it expects 7.7 million online transactions to take place today totalling 450 million, which could make it the busiest day of the year so far for online shopping.

The company said it also expects around 312,500 to be spent every minute on 2 December.

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However, this predicted flurry of online activity has prompted cyber security experts to warn consumers about the dangers of internet shopping.

In particular, it is feared cyber criminals will capitalise on today by sending out phishing emails containing fake order confirmations, erroneous payment queries and product discounts.

James Nunn-Price, UK head of cyber security at corporate advisory firm Deloitte, said consumers need to bear in mind that retailers won't be the only ones trying to lure them in with the promise of good deals over the next few days.

"Spammers will be using the opportunity to send out increased amounts of fake offers and phishing emails, hoping that consumers will have their guard down and be tricked into giving up their personal details," said Nunn-Price. 

"We also expect to see more instances of cybersquatting, where fraudsters set up fake websites which look like the real thing.  Banks are usually the main targets for this sort of fraud, but criminals will have their sights on the places deal-hungry shoppers are likely to look, such as voucher sites, so consumers should be wary and make sure web pages are genuine."

Therefore, shoppers should double-check the authenticity of retailers' URLs before using their sites, and make sure the address features the "https" protocol for added protection.

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In a blog post, Dell Secureworks has also set out a 12-point plan containing details about how to avoid falling victim to cyber criminals while Christmas shopping.

"Be wary of holiday gift cards, holiday coupon offers, holiday cards, photos, etc. sent via email. These often have malicious links within the offer, which lead to downloads of info-stealing Trojans or the hackers try to scam you out of your bank account information," the post states.

Samantha Swift, online security expert at anti-virus firm McAfee, said falling victim to identity thieves and online fraudsters is an easy trap to fall into.

"As the UK gears up for the busiest online shopping days, it's important that consumers realise the potential for identity theft and fraud increases when sharing personal information and bank details using smartphones, tablets and PCs that are under protected," she said.

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"Understanding the mindsets of cyber crooks and being aware of how they try to take advantage of consumers can help ensure that we use our devices the way they were intended to enhance our lives, not jeopardise them."

As well as phishing attacks, McAfee is also warning shoppers to exercise caution when using mobile shopping apps that try to pass themselves off as web shopping portals for legitimate companies.

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"Official-looking software for Christmas shopping, including those that feature celebrity or company endorsements, could be malicious, designed to steal or send out your personal data," said McAfee, in an advisory document.

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