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Cyber Monday is the heaviest online shopping day in the United States, with last year’s sales exceeding $2 billion within 24 hours. Unfortunately, for bargain-hungry consumers, the holiday shopping season is also a bonanza for cyber criminals.

The huge uptick in website traffic means more potential targets, making the holiday season the perfect time for attackers to target online shopping sites.

From fraudulent gift cards to phishing scams and social engineering tactics, cyber crime tactics continue to evolve, and unfortunately, still largely successful.

“Consumers need to be extra cautious when they shop online,” warns Lamar Bailey, director of research and development at Tripwire. “The good news is that anyone can dramatically reduce the risk of being victimized by following a few basic security practices.”

A team of security researchers at Tripwire recommends that consumers take the following precautions when taking their shopping online this holiday season:

1. Beware of the siren song of a great deal by avoiding shopping websites that offer prices that seem too good to be true.

A common tactic by cyber criminals is using extremely low prices on popular items, such as electronics, to lure in potential victims.

2. Use a credit card instead of a debit card.

If your credit card data is used for something nefarious, it’s easier to resolve issues with a credit card company than with your bank.

3. Take advantage of the alert features on your credit card.

These alerts can warn you of abnormal account activity, which are helpful any time during the year but are especially useful during the busy holiday shopping season.

4. Never purchase merchandise from a website that does not use secure HTTPS for the purchase process.

Check the address line of your browser during the purchase process; it should start with HTTPS.

5. Ensure your computer has the most current security software patches installed.

Once a security patch is available, cyber criminals have all the information they need to attack devices that have not been updated.

6. Review your statements.

Pay extra attention to your bank and credit card statements come January and February. Even small charges you don’t remember making can be a sign of fraud. Notify your bank or credit card issuer immediately to report unknown charges.

Furthermore, online shoppers should also be especially careful of emails they receive, adds Lane Thames, security researcher at Tripwire.

“Phishing campaigns that try to dupe consumers into giving away personal and financial information tend to rise during the holiday season,” explained Thames.

Title image courtesy of ShutterStock