While the crowds pack the stores and rush for great sales on Black Friday, there is another, massive shopping day remaining that avoids the physical crowds.

While the crowds pack the stores and rush for great sales on Black Friday, there is another, massive shopping day remaining that avoids the physical crowds.

Cyber Monday, which falls on the Monday after Black Friday, is an annual jump in online shopping that often ignores the fact that many Americans are working. According to shop.org, which coined the phrase “Cyber Monday” in 2005, 77 percent of online retailers saw a jump in sales on Cyber Monday, and many have offered deals of their own that may rival Black Friday.

But window shopping and actual shopping on the Internet isn’t always the safest. Fortunately, Pittsburg State Chief Information Officer Angela Neria offered several tips as to how to avoid the pitfalls and problems of Cyber Monday.

1) First, make sure your computer has the latest in anti-virus updates
The first tip includes within it a warning not to use smart phones for online shopping.
“They don’t have the same protection, like an anti-virus program that a PC does,” Neria said. “People are building malware to steal information from smart phones. Do youre shopping on an anti-virus protected PC.”

2) Beware of bad sites
Bad sites can include fake charities and e-card scams. Neria said these sites lure one in and then asks for personal information. She said these are phishing scams in disguise.
“Also, we’ve stressed that if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is,” Neria said.

3) Secure your information
To be sure you’re using a safe site, look for the https:// or a padlock sign in the URL. Neria also suggests using a password-secure PayPal or Amazon account.
“Microsoft makes a really good password creator. Generally, you want 14 alphanumeric letters and at least one symbol,” Neria said. “It helps create a strong password. People don’t realize this, but there is software that allows you to scan and scan and scan until you hit on someone’s password. The more complicated the password, the less likely it can be cracked.”

4) Know your location
There are certain places that make a computer more exposed than others. Notably, these include any open network.
“Don’t purchase over an open network like a hotel, a restaurant or an airport,” Neria said. “Do it at home with a secure log-in, and that way it can’t be interrupted.”

5) Stay alert online
Neria warns about private e-mails that look like they are from a bank or PayPal, but are really scams for personal information. She said a bank would never send a personal e-mail to try to get personal information. Also, do your homework on new sites.
“I was looking for a new camera, and I found a deal that looked too good to be true,” she said. “I called the contact numbers listed, and I never got a person, and I left several messages. When I went back to the site later, it was gone without a trace. I didn’t buy the camera from them. I paid a little more, but had none of the problems.”

6) If in doubt, look for reputation
While many major retailers’ websites tend to have more secure websites, including eBay, WalMart, Best Buy, Target and Sears, it’s still important to treat online businesses as if they were brick-and-mortar businesses.
“I’d say it’s your gut instinct. It’s just like outside the cyber world,” Neria said. “If it looks too good, it probably is, just like any vendor. It’s a bait-and-switch deal. Use your same awareness in real life. Just because it’s on the Internet, there’s no stamp of approval to be a business.”

Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.