If you are reading this article, it means you have survived the Great War known in yonder lands as Black Friday. However, don’t get comfortable in your self-admiration just yet. If Star Wars has taught us anything, it’s that the Empire always strikes back. That’s right Jedi, Cyber Monday is but a day away, so you can’t stop now. If you end now, if you choose the quick and easy path, you will become an agent of evil . . . You know, those people who think they are above shopping sales and using coupons. Yeah, those people.
Shopping Cyber Monday doesn’t take quite as much preparation as Black Friday. You get to stay stationary at one computer, and don’t have to worry about spending too much time in one store, and getting stuck in check out lines. While it doesn't take a full recon mission, there are a few ways to make sure you get the most out of Cyber Monday.
1. Shop at sites that offer free shipping.
2. Use the RetailMeNot app or retailmenot.com to seek out coupon codes (if you haven't been able to tell already, this is pretty much my most favorite shopping tool).
3. As a social media coordinator, I can't begin to explain how valuable social networks are. Follow your favorite stores on Facebook and Twitter for special deals.
However, the most important thing you have to keep in mind on Cyber Monday is staying safe. Cyber Monday has become known as the “Superbowl of Online Theft”, and you need to make sure to take extra precaution when shopping online.
1. The first rule of online shopping, is to never talk about online shopping . . . Oh wait, that's Fight Club (oops). The first rule of online shopping is actually to never use your debit card when shopping online. If for some reason your information gets stolen, it is a lot more manageable to handle if it is your credit card instead of your debit card, you know, because a credit card is borrowed money and your debit card is your actual money.
2. Look for https:// (hint: the “s” stands for secure).
3. Make sure your computer has antivirus software and that it is up to date. This software not only detects and removes viruses, but it also removes keyloggers (they record the keys that you strike on your keyboard, i.e. credit card numbers, passwords, etc.) that can steal your information when you shop with your credit card.
4. If shopping on a device (whether it be a laptop, iPad, or even a phone) via WiFi, make sure your wireless network is secure with a password so that others cannot access your information without your knowledge. So think twice before you make an online purchase from your phone while on public WiFi from places such as airports and restaurants. Public WiFi is inherently unsecure.
5. Be sure to shop only at trusted online vendors. While even the most reputable sites can be hacked, shopping with more established businesses cuts back on those chances. Also, make sure to bookmark these sites and access them through those bookmarks, these helps ensure that you are not redirected to a falsified site.
6. Use unique logins and passwords for every site you visit. This way, if a hacker gets the information to one online shopping account, they don't have access to all of them. This is particularly dangerous with major vendors who store your credit card information in your online account with “express checkouts”.
7. Don't trust Cyber Monday “special” emails. A lot of stores like to flood your inbox with emails promising deals and special discounts. Some of these emails cannot be trusted. Even if it looks reputable, don't click the links in the emails. Go to the website yourself and find the deals through the website.
8. During the holiday shopping season, be vigilant about reviewing your bank statements for fraudulent purchases. Keep a list of everything you buy and the exact amount you paid for it.
Well my dear budgeteers, that's all I have for you this week. Don't forget to like me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BrittanyDenneyMcClure and follow me on Twitter @BudgetBrittany. In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.”