(KMOV.com) -- Cyber Monday is getting closer, and experts predict this year's economic impact will be bigger than ever.
It's a huge shopping event, but also a big day for cyber criminals looking for shoppers with their guard down and wallets open.
Cyber sales are expected to be up by 18% this year compared to 2011. One survey estimates more than 100 million people will log on to shop.
"Two billion dollars will be spent on Monday between midnight and 6 a.m., and throughout the day," said Dr. Benjamin Akande, the dean of the Webster University business school. "What you're seeing in the case of Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, and even some of the smaller players, is that they're responding to each others prices in real time."
Criminals target cyber shoppers because they are willing to spend money and looking for the best deals possible. Spam on social media sites is more common this year. Users are more likely to trust posts from friends, and click on links that could be scams.
Shopping on smart phones and handheld devices has grown significantly since last year's holiday shopping season.
Almost twenty-four percent of purchases are being done on handheld devices, according to Akande.
To keep personal and financial information safe, make sure the website is secure. Look for an "s" after the "http" in the URL. The URL is the address of the site you are visiting. At the beginning of the address it should read "https."
Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit card transactions offer more protection.
Beware of public WIFI hot spots. When using the free wifi in public, crooks can access any information transmitted. If used correctly, comparing prices on handheld devices can mean significant savings.
"The most powerful accessory this weekend and over the next couple of weeks, is your iPhone. If you know how to use it effectively it can save you hundreds of dollars," said Dr. Akande.
TIPS FROM THE BBB:
- Protect your computer. Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly.
- Check a site's security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with "https://." You also may see a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right hand corner of the screen.
- Shop trustworthy websites: Look for the BBB seal on the site and click to confirm that it's valid. New BBB dynamic seals will take you to a site's BBB Business Review. You also may find the review at www.bbb.org.
- Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.
- Beware of phishing. Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming problems with an order, account or a package to lure the buyer into revealing financial information. If you receive such an email, the BBB recommends that you pick up the phone and call the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm a problem.
- Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don't receive an item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are any unauthorized charges on the card, and many card issuers have zero-liability policies if someone steals and uses your card number. Check your credit card statement regularly for unauthorized charges. Never wire money.
- Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page of an order or emails confirming the order until you receive the item and are satisfied.
- Obtain a tracking number for shipments. If you need the product before the holidays, find out when the seller intends to ship it and if possible, how it will be shipped. The tracking number can help you find a lost order.
- Know your rights: Federal law requires that orders made by phone, mail or online be shipped by the date promised or within 30 days if no delivery time was stated. If goods aren't shipped on time, shoppers can cancel and demand a refund. Consumers also may reject merchandise if it is defective or was misrepresented.