PIMA COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - On Monday, Nov. 27, billions of dollars will be spent online. It comes with a warning.
The day known as Cyber Monday will end the big holiday shopping weekend, and if you've had enough of scouring the storefronts you're not alone.
Millions of people will browse the internet and take advantage of the comforts of home. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) a record $3.45 billion was spent on Cyber Monday in 2016.
"The stats are phenomenal," said Susann Miller, the Communication &Consumer Affairs Director for the BBB of Southern Arizona.
She's hoping to keep you safe as you spend your money.
Experts warn that online holiday shopping is a prime time for scammers. But Miller's advice is the same advice she gives year-round.
"It's really just being present and knowing what you're doing. Looking out for red flags."
For example, she said make sure you know the site you're purchasing from is legitimate.
"You see a Facebook ad that's just got the greatest deal. Before you click on that ad, go to the site directly. So say it's a Macy's ad. Go to Macys.com directly and just see if that ad is on there. You can also scroll your mouse over that ad and see where it's taking you. If it doesn't have 'Macys.com' in the ad, more than likely it's going to be taking you to a different site that's for a scammer," Miller explained.
Keep an eye out to shop only at URLs that you recognize, she suggested.
"That's why there are so many of these false advertisements. These sites that really are not legitimate. You place an order. You'll never get your product."
It's also important, according to Miller, to keep your smartphones updated.
Statistics from the BBB show that shopping is going mobile. The organization said that 47 percent of all website visits came from mobile devices - mostly smartphones - and contributed 31 percent of sales. Search ads drove 38.5 percent of sales on Cyber Monday, and desktops accounting for 53 percent of visits and 69 percent of sales, according to the BBB.
It's why Miller suggests your software is in tip-top shape.
"You really want to make sure that when you're on your smartphone it's a safe and secure site. Make sure your device is up-to-date with the app software and the operating system. That's huge. Those apps have updates come to you for the very purpose of keeping you safe from bugs."
- Gift Receipts: Always ask for a gift receipt. This way the recipient can return or exchange a gift if it's not just right.
- Warranty Information: Inquire about the store's return policy before purchasing. Also, be sure to pass along any information about returns, exchanges, repairs, and warranties to the person who will use the item.
- Research: Read product reviews, check BBB.org for Business Profiles, look at the sales flyers and ads, compare prices, look for early promotions and "flash sales." For tips on searching online, check out BBB Digital IQ.
- Mobile Security: With so many shoppers using their mobile devices to research and make purchases, it's important to have a secure device. Be sure you're using the recently updated version of apps and operating system on the phone. Also, actively manage your location services, Bluetooth, microphone and camera - make sure apps use them appropriately.
- Public Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi is vulnerable to thieves and fraudsters looking to steal your info. When in stores or restaurants, avoid using banking or other apps that access sensitive personal information.
- Email Phishing: With all the promotional emails received during the holidays, scammers will be out in full force. It's best not to click on links from senders you don't recognize. You can also hover your mouse over links without clicking to see if the address is really taking you to where it says it is. Also, check the reply email address. The address should be on a company domain. Watch for look-alike domains.
- Interest-Based Advertising: As you browse the web or use your favorite store's app, you might notice ads personalized to you, sometimes based on your previous web searches. This is called Interest-Based Advertising, which is often signaled by Ad Choices in the corners of ads. If you want to opt out of receiving this type of advertising, download the AppChoices app or visit youradchoices.com/.
- Back up Your Data: Have an online backup option in case your device is attacked by hackers. You do not want to lose all your family's information and memories.
- Charity Disclosure: Check out give.org to find BBB Accredited Charities that have fully disclosed information to BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Although participation is voluntary, you may want to be cautious of charities that don't disclose requested information to BBB.
- What's In a Name: Be on the lookout for name similarities. Dubious charities often pick a name that sounds like a more famous charity. Before you give, be sure you have the exact name of the charity you want to support. Learn more about charitable giving at give.org.
- Give a Guide: Request a free Holiday issue of the BBB Wise Giving Guide to be sent to a friend or family member this giving season! The guide features evaluation results for thousands of charities. Simply email Guide@give.org with "Free Guide" in the subject line, and a name and address of where you'd like the guide to be sent.