Data Doctors: 4 tips to avoid Black Friday, Cyber Monday scams

I'm going to try avoiding the crowds this year and shop online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday; any tips on what to watch out for?

With the economy perking up and our trend to do more shopping online, the deals and scams will be everywhere this holiday season. If you fall for them, you could end up getting ripped off or worse, fooled into thinking that a gift is on its way when it will never show up.

In the past, the primary scams came via e-mail or fake shopping websites, but this year, you can add social media and mobile scams to the list.

Scammers go where the crowds are and this year the shopping crowds are relying on their mobile devices and social media networks in greater numbers, so here are some of the scams to keep your eye out for:

#1 – E-mail scams, especially when they offer deals on hard to get items

E-mail is still the tool of choice for scammers because it's so effective at capturing victims, so your best bet is to be extra suspicious of any e-mail that's promoting holiday specials, even if it's from a company that you are familiar with.  They will use your desire for a great deal against you by creating salacious offers that stress that you have to act quickly, especially if it's a hard to find item.

Clicking on a link or opening a special deal attachment can lead to everything from fake e-commerce sites to snaring you with the new CryptoLocker ransom-ware threat we discussed a couple of weeks ago (Is This The Most Vicious Virus Ever?)

Be especially careful opening attachments that claim to be from UPS or FedEx for something that you already purchased as this is how most victims of the CryptoLocker ransom virus are being tricked (the shipping companies will never send you an attachment).

A quick way to sniff out fake links is to use "the hover trick" to see if the displayed link matches the actual link.

#2 – Fake shopping websites and rigged search results with amazing deals

Once again, the scammers know that greed can blind you and cause you to let your guard down, so they create very convincing holiday deal websites with incredible deals.  In some cases, they can be clever enough to get listed in Google searches, which most people assume are always safe.

Website reputation tools such as Trend Micro's Smart Protection Network which is built into their antivirus program can warn you in real-time or their Site Safety Center allows you to copy and paste any web address in for a quick check of its reputation.

You can also install a web add-on from Web of Trust that will alert you in real-time to a site's reputation in search results via their traffic light warning system.

#3 – Scams posted on Social Media Networks

Scammers generally use compromised social accounts to spread scams via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. because they know you are more likely to fall for the scam if it looks like it came from one of your friends.

The Web Of Trust tool will also display a colored circle next to links in social media to help alert you of a potential scam link.

#4 – Targeted mobile scams

For some reason, most users of smartphones and tablets don't think of their mobile computers the same way that they think of their desktop computers and the scammers know that.

You can be tricked with a clever e-mail, text message or social media link on your mobile device just as well and even contract malware (especially Android devices) from clicking on malicious links.

Trend Micro has a free mobile security app for Android users and iOS (Apple) users to alert you to suspicious sites.

More than ever before, when it comes to shopping online ‘tis the season to be PARANOID.

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