Key tips for safe shopping on Cyber Monday

Since the mid 60s, tradition dictates that on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, American stores offer great discounts. As a result, millions of consumers plan to shop on this day, year after year, and wait in long queues to enjoy the best offers.

To the traditional date is added, since 2006, Cyber Monday, a day on which the discount offers continue, but only on the Internet. According to comScore, Cyber Monday 2011 was a historical day for e-commerce, resulting in US$1251 million in sales. This number represents a 22% increase from the year before.

This year, according to Radium One, forecasts indicate that sales will be greater than US$1400 M. In this context, and in preparation for the most important online shopping day of the year, it is good to consider a few tips to help ensure that we can buy on the Internet in a safe way. 

1. Only buy on sites that offer authentication certificates. Certifications such as “Verified by Visa” and “MasterCard SecureCode” add an extra layer of protection to your online shopping and guarantee that transactions are certified by your credit card company.

2. Choose credit cards over debit. Credit cards offer protection from fraud if reported. However, if you’re using your debit card online and someone gains access to your personal information, they can clean out your checking account before you even learn there’s a problem.

3. If possible, use disposable credit cards. In this way, you add a specified dollar amount to the card, and the credit card can only be used until that amount is gone. If the information is stolen, criminals can’t gain access to personal data and will only be able to use the dollar amount that’s still available on the card.

4. If it´s too good to be true, be suspicious. Exceptionally or unbelievably good offers can be a trap to catch unwary buyers who, to avoid losing a unique opportunity, don’t verify that security criteria are fulfilled.

5. Do not trust just any site. Try to buy online versions of traditional brands, or make purchases through sites with a good reputation. Be careful with misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (.net instead of .com, for example).

6. Only buy at secure sites. When you conduct an online transaction, be sure that the site has an SSL system (secure sockets layer). You can recognize it by verifying that the URL for the site starts with HTTPS:// instead of just HTTP://.

7. Do not offer extra information. Some fraudulent sites ask for additional data that is not necessary to make the purchase, such as your birth date. This information, combined with your credit card number, can be very dangerous in malicious hands.

8. Don’t buy anything while connected to public terminals. Using a PC at a hotel or the Wi-Fi connection of a coffee shop to make a purchase is not a good idea, since you don’t have control over the PC security and the net administration. If you don’t have any other option, be sure to log out once you finish any transaction, and that nobody can see you typing your credit card information.

9. Protect your computer. The PC you use for online purchases must be protected against malware and must have an antivirus program. Even free programs exist for this, such as Ad-Aware.

10. Use strong passwords. Do not repeat your passwords in multiple platforms online, and try to ensure that all of your access passwords include numbers, letters, both capital and small letters, and symbols.

11. Check your card statements regularly. At least once a week, and especially after buying online, review the electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts to be sure that there is no suspicious activity.

This year it is anticipated that Cyber Monday will mark another milestone in the world of e-commerce. Additionally, it is expected that mobile devices will play a fundamental role in online shopping: According to IBM, in 2011 mobile commerce grew at 10.8% compared with the year before, and it is expected that it will continue growing this year.

Black Friday as well as Cyber Monday owe their success to the fact that they are authentic celebrations for consumers, who can take advantage of discounts without comparison. To obtain the best of these opportunities, however, it’s necessary to approach them with caution.