Now that the frenzy of Black Friday has passed, a less active — but equally dangerous — shopping day has arrived.
Cyber Monday, a day devoted to finding great deals at the click of a mouse, combines the satisfaction of saving big during the holiday season with the ease of having your purchases delivered right to your door. For some, however, making purchases online presents a new form of obstacles.
Abby Pfister, a junior at the University of Vermont, spent the beginning of one semester awaiting a textbook that she had ordered online. By the time the book arrived, the political science and economics major no longer needed it for her coursework.
“When the book didn’t arrive within a few weeks after I had ordered it, I contacted the company,” she said. “They told me it had been shipped using the U.S. Postal Service and I had to wait the maximum number of days standard shipping allowed before they could deal with the issue, which turned out to be about four weeks. When I called them to follow up, they rushed another copy of the book to me.”
During the holiday season, the chances that an online order will get lost in the mix are especially high.
Last winter, Best Buy disappointed its cyber customers when a handful of online orders from Black Friday weekend went unfulfilled. For some customers, news of Best Buy’s mishap did not come for a few weeks, at which point the store was unable to fill their orders in time for the holidays.
In addition, Business Insider reports that certain companies’ websites are not equipped to handle the influx of traffic on Cyber Monday. Last year, Brookstone spent 25% of the consumer holiday down, and popular business including Toys ‘R’ Us, Urban Outfitters, Crate & Barrel, Nordstrom and Barnes & Noble also experienced server-based glitches.
Like many college students, Pfister finds the prospect of shopping online more appealing than going to a store, in spite of the hassles that she has endured as an online shopper.
“Especially around the holidays when stores seem to be packed, I would rather shop from the comfort of my own home,” she said. “I don’t have much free time to go to the mall in between classes, so online shopping makes it easy to purchase gifts on my own time.”
Although shopping online may feel like the more time-efficient option, the risks associated with cyber purchases can outweigh the inconvenience of entering a store during the holiday season.
According to Consumer Reports, an estimated 1.7 million households fell prey to identity theft over the Internet in 2009, two-thirds of which resulted from an online purchase gone awry. Additionally, 63% of businesses that complained about consumer-fraud that year were scammed through their online store. Cyber Monday shoppers will be especially vulnerable to hackers as they search around for deals and enter their credit card information onto numerous websites.
According to a USA TODAY video, hackers can send out viral links on social networking sites that install software onto personal computers to gain access to bank account information.
USA TODAY writer Byron Acohido also predicts that these “cybergangs” of hackers will capitalize on search engines by adding virus-infected pages to search queries that relate to shopping on Cyber Monday. In addition, they are likely to target consumers through text messages and free mobile device apps, as the number of transactions that occur through smartphones has increased greatly from last year.
In order to steer clear of these scams, it is vital to remain wary of the ways in which cybercriminals can find your information. Cybersecurity expert Bob Bunge of DeVry University warns against using a debit card while shopping online, as it allows direct access to your bank account.
First and foremost, he encourages shoppers to only shop on websites that they know to be legitimate, reminding consumers that, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”