BURNSVILLE, Minn --- For some shoppers, Cyber Monday can offer a bad deal.
An estimated 20 million people are shopping online today, many using web browsers that aren't secure, so cybergangs are trailing sales alongside customers. Coordinated web attacks often start overseas, where hackers can steal your identity and hijack your online accounts.
"There are great deals out there I can't wait to get home and purchase after the work day is done," said Ryan Elmer, an account manager at Burnsville based Total Networx, a company that specializes in IT security. "But, slowing down and reading through things you are looking at really help."
Elmer says before you start online shopping, scan your computer for infections using anti-malware, make sure you are using the latest browser, and avoid shopping over public wifi, where other users can access your activity.
He says some of the biggest risks, however, come after you purchase in the form of phishing scam emails.
"They will send out an email that looks like it is from UPS or Amazon that usually leads to a link that has malware on it. To protect yourself I would say one of the best things to do is not follow any links on those emails, and not open up a browser but go to UPS and enter in information yourself," said Elmer.
He points out these emails often are generated overseas and have misspellings and poor grammar, which can be a clue to the scam.
Elmer says one of the easiest ways to protect yourself is by making sure your web address should start with https://. The "S" at the end stands for "Secure Socket Layering", a form of encryption that means your access is sure.
Last, shoppers can do what Susan Budig, of St Louis Park, did just yesterday, when a friend alerted her that her email was hacked. She changed her passwords before she purchased gifts for her family this Cyber Monday.
Elmer says hackers break into servers and steal passwords, and even use programs to test passwords on multiple sites at one time.
Budig met with her women's writing group at the Buzz coffee shop in Burnsville this week. Two out of the three writers in her group have been victims of identity theft, including Amy Graves, also a writer from St. Louis Park. Graves says she shops online, but never over a public connection, a chapter she just isn't willing to risk.
"I do it from home because I know what is secure from my home system. Setting up firewalls and having a router in place as a stopping point. It's where I know I am safe, whereas out here, I might be safe, but I am not sure. So I don't take chances," said Graves.
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