CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cyber security experts are warning consumers to be alert as they shop online this Cyber Monday.
They say criminals are lurking online behind fake websites and links, preying on unsuspecting victims.
"Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent a huge opportunity for bad actors to capitalize on the fact that we're all living our lives shopping, mostly online," Brian Linder, emerging threats expert with Check Point Software, said.
Check Point Research reported seeing a 178% increase in malicious websites related to e-shopping in the past six weeks.
"The bad actors have been very active preparing for and now are in the middle of trying to trick people, get people to visit shopping sites that usually offer things that are appearing to be too good to be true," Linder said.
Experts said consumers will get an email with a link for what they think is a great deal on a legitimate website, only to be defrauded or have their information stolen.
"They're really just waiting to prey on these poor people," Linder said.
It can also happen on social media sites.
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Shoppers click an ad in their timeline, only for it to be a fake website that looks like the real thing.
"Do not click through those ads. Do not click on those emails," Nick Powers, UNCOMN, LL Executive Vice President, said. "You can read them, and if you see something cool that you'd like, go to the website yourself. I mean, that's the easiest way to avoid this is just don't click on the links."
Experts said as hard as shoppers are working to keep packages safe from porch pirates this holiday season, consumers need to focus just as much on cyber security as they shop this year.
"Our phones, our computers, our laptops, and our tablets connect us to a world much scarier than what's out there when you walk out your front door," Powers said.
Cyber security experts also recommend having a discussion with family members who may not be as tech-savvy about the importance of watching out for fake websites and bogus shopping links.
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