Cyber Monday means more opportunities for scam artists

Online retailers expect more business on this year's Cyber Monday than ever, and security experts say that means more risk for consumers.

Some mid-Missouri shoppers say they plan to look for online bargains on Monday. Jefferson City resident Dawn Sweazea and Chesterfield resident Shari Baron said they plan to look online for items they were not able to find at local or national stores this weekend.

More and more shoppers nationwide take their bargain hunts online. An IBM report showed online sales on Cyber Monday in 2012 were up 30 percent over 2011. That same year, Internet sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday increased 17 and 20 percent, respectively. That means more opportunities for identity thieves.

Before going online, the Better Business Bureau recommends installing a firewall and anti-virus and anti-spyware software and running regular scans. In addition, the Internet security company Symantec suggests keeping Internet browsers up to date. Once online, the kind of website you visit affects your risk of identity theft. Shoppers told KRCG 13 they stick with online retailers they are familiar with.

"I buy from the bigger-name stores so I know it's a reputable place to purchase my online items," Sweazea said.

Sweazea's tip echoes one of the most frequent pieces of online shopping advice: purchase items from a reputable online retailer. The FBI, Missouri Attorney General's office, Better Business Bureau and other groups all concur on this point. The Attorney General's office says you should make sure a website is secure before entering any credit card information. Secure website URLs begin with "https://" rather than "http://" and such sites may include a padlock icon next to the address bar. Internet security company McAfee says scammers usually don't take the time to set up secure websites.

This leads to another tip: The Better Business Bureau recommends paying with a credit card instead of wiring money. Federal law lets credit card users dispute charges if they do not receive an item. In addition, the BBB recommends keeping an eye on credit card statements for any unauthorized activity.

Deals that appear out of nowhere should be regarded with suspicion. The FBI says common scams include new products being sold at prices significantly below market value, one-day-only websites, emails and phone calls asking for personal information and gift card offers on social media that appear to be from major retailers. The bureau recommends researching products ahead of time to find out what the price range is.

Once you've made your purchase, the BBB recommends you print an order confirmation and keep it until you receive the item you ordered and are satisfied with it. Federal law requires all mail, phone and online orders to be shipped by the date promised or within 30 days if no such date is provided. Shoppers can cancel and demand a refund if this does not happen and can reject defective or misrepresented merchandise.