Don't let scammers turn Black Friday and Cyber Monday into Regretful Tuesday

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As the traditional American shopping frenzies of Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach, you need to be careful. And not only of crazed shoppers in the parking lot. For the thugs of the Internet, people on a buying binge are suckers to be had.

Avira IT Security Expert Sorin Mustaca reminded readers in a recent blog post that "'Stay alert' doesn’t mean that you should only keep an eye on those great offers. It means that you should not fall for the scams that are going to show up."

Mustaca warns that "We expect to see the large spam and phishing campaigns" that always come around these two days, which are "too well-known to not be used by cyber criminals." These crooks offer goods for sale that, unlike the charges to your credit card, may never show up.

According to Mustaca, we should also expect spam throughout and beyond the holiday season from scammers claiming to be trying to resell unwanted gifts. "All these have something in common: social engineering and greed."

This year, the cyber crooks will likely target your mobile phone and your social media accounts to scam you. Byron Acohido, in a Detroit Free Press article, warns that "Crooks go where the money is, and cybercriminals are concentrating their cleverness this year on mobile devices and social media."

People are particularly vulnerable to holiday-themed phishing scams. "We're human; we're compelled to click," says Proofpoint executive vice president David Knight. "And we're even more human during the holiday season."

According to Signifyd, a company that protects e-commerce business from fraud, mobile phones are particularly vulnerable. The Detroit Free Press article reports that 1.3 percent of phone-based sales are fraudulent; that's nearly twice the 0.8 percent on PCs and nearly three times the 0.5 percent on tablets.

Signifyd chief executive Rajesh Ramanand attributes this weakness in smartphone-based retail to user-friendly design. "Companies are trying to get the mobile experience to be as frictionless as possible, so they're putting less checks at the point of checkout to give the customer that terrific experience. Fraudsters are finding ways to exploit this hole."

Signifyd also reports that a full quarter of all Internet retail traffic is now from mobile devices--mostly phones. That's a lot of potential victims.

"We tend to trust our mobile devices because nobody else can touch [it]," warns RSA cybersecurity strategist Daniel Cohen. "But our hyper-connectivity, together with a small screen, make it easier for fraudsters to come at us."

So how should you shop? Avira's Mustaca suggests you "Always buy from websites which you or your friends know." Keep in mind that online Web site ratings and security seals can be faked. And if it seems too good to be true, it's probably not true.

Of course, cyber fraud isn't the worst thing that can happen to you on Black Friday. Every year, as people race to and through brick and mortar stores, accidents and violent confrontations take several lives. You have to be careful in the real world, as well.

This story, "Don't let scammers turn Black Friday and Cyber Monday into Regretful Tuesday" was originally published by BrandPost.