Protect your privacy on Cyber Monday and beyond

Posted at: 11/26/2012 5:19 PM
Updated at: 11/26/2012 5:51 PM
By: Beth Wurtmann

LATHAM -  It's expected to be the biggest online shopping day for the third year straight, and shoppers like Jennifer Swinford were taking full advantage of Cyber Monday.

"I don't have to worry about lines I don't have to worry about people being irritable waiting forever to see if a product is in stock," she said.

But experts said she and the 20-million other consumers buying holiday gifts online should worry about scam artists trying to trick them into giving up private information.

"The biggest red flag in online purchases is when someone doesn't want to accept a credit card," said Bill Mosher, a Senior Investigator with the New York State Police Financial Crimes Unit.

 Mosher warned never to use wire transfers to pay for gifts, a practice favored by rip off artists because it's hard to reverse.

Instead, he advised to charge items on your credit card, preferably the same card for all purchases. That way you can keep track of the transactions, and more easily dispute fraudulent charges if they appear.

Mosher also said before you buy those items in your online cart, make sure the site is secure.

"You can notice a secure site by that crazy address on the top that starts with HTTP. But in the secure sites it's 'HTTPs and that 's' at the end means that it's a secure site and it's being encrypted. And that way it's much harder for hackers to get involved," said Mosher.

What about those apps that help you comparison shop and pay? Mosher said to be certain that the APP takes you to the same site of the retailer you're doing business with, and not a suspicious website you don't trust.

Watch out for discounts that seem too good to be true, as well.

For instance if most retailers are offering 40% off, Mosher said you might want to do your homework before buying from a little known competitor trying to entice you with a 75% discount, because it could be a phishing scam in disguise.