It is Cyber Monday and you have probably already received dozens of online sales pitches but are they all legitimate? All you have to do is click on a link for a 25%, 50% or more discount. But the Central Alabama Better Business Bureau is warning shoppers to practice cyber security. Will that link take you to a money saving sale or a money losing fake website?

Carl Bates of the Central Alabama Better Business Bureau is warning about scammers and hackers who are increasingly using online shopping to redirect purchasers looking for a bargain to fake websites in order to steal a shopper's money and identification.

Bates has several suggestions for cyber safety, among them are purchasing a VPN subscription. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It encrypts your data and hides your IP (internet protocol) address while you browse the internet. It protects your online privacy and security.

Also, update your computer's anti-virus software. Virtually hundreds of new threats emerge daily, and computer experts urge daily updates to keep up with the threat.

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Bates also urges online shoppers to verify the correct internet address for the company they are purchasing from. "Scammers and hackers cannot use the actual internet address of the company so they will make subtle changes like adding an "s" to the Target address. Too many people don't notice they are clicking on Targets, instead of Target. So, they get directed to the crook's fake website".

Before filling in all your personal information on the online purchase page make sure the address bar begins with HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol secure) and displays a lock icon. This prevents websites from having their information broadcast in a way that is easily viewed by anyone snooping on the network. When information is sent over regular HTTP, the information is broken into packets of data that can be easily “sniffed” using free software.

The BBB release also urges online shoppers to not use "sponsored" sites on a search engine. The bureau states this too often will take the shopper to a totally different site than the website wanted. Look for the company's official website.

BBB also advises to always to make sure you log out of accounts, especially when using shared devices.

Most companies will send you an email to verify your purchase and shipping information but be careful. BBB warns against the dangers of phishing attempts, a common tactic used by cybercriminals to obtain personal information through deceptive emails or messages.

It is not uncommon for a cyber-criminal to send a fake email requesting further information or telling you to click on a link to verify personal information. Or a criminal may ask you to click on a link to obtain shipping tracking. Always be suspicious and verify with the company from whom you made the purchase.

Online shoppers can be convenient and on Cyber Monday it could save you some real cash but not taking adequate cyber security precautions could cost you far more.

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