Online Shoppers Greet 'Cyber Monday'

Santa Claus uses computer to surf the Internet for online shopping, photo CBS/AP

Just as retail shoppers are recovering from Black Friday, online shoppers are about to face Cyber Monday. Monday is the unofficial start of the online holiday shopping season when office workers fresh from their Thanksgiving break hit the online stores from the comfort of their workplaces. Contrary to what some believe, it's not the biggest online shopping day of the year according to Kamran Pourzanjani President of Pricegrabber.com: "It's a big day for shopping obviously but it's not the busiest day. That doesn't come for another couple of weeks." Mr. Pourzanjani said that activity on Pricegrabber on the day after thanksgiving was 30 percent higher than that day last year.

Traffic on Thursday was heavy enough to disrupt traffic on Walmart.com, Amazon.com and Disney online shopping sites. Internet servers, like brick and mortar stores, are designed to handle a certain capacity and if they're overwhelmed, they can slow down or even shut down. If there is a surge of traffic on Monday and sites don't prepare, we could see more outages if they become overwhelmed.

to hear Larry Magid's podcast, including interviews with Kamran Pourzanjani, President of PriceGrabber.com; Laura Yecies, Vice President at Check Point Software; and Mark Maxwell of McAfee's SiteAdviser.com.

If you are gong to shop online this holiday season, pay special attention to your personal security. Laura Yecies, general manager of the consumer division of cyber security firm, Check Point Software, warns consumers "to be wary of things like identify theft and having their credit card stolen so they need to take precautions. It's good to be sure that they're going to safe sites that they know well and, of course, making sure their PC is secured." Check Point's $50 a year Zone Alarm Internet Security Suite along with competing programs from Symantec, Trend Micro and other companies protects against spyware, hackers and the growing threat of phishing – email that leads you to bogus websites that look identical to legitimate financial and ecommerce sites.

Mcafee's free SiteAdvisor.com service offers a download that warns you before you get to potentially dangerous sites. The service, according to McAfee SiteAdvisor's Mark Maxwell, "scours the Internet, interacts with websites and builds up a rating system of red, yellow or green that we communicate to end users via a browser tool bar." The company also offers the $20 a year SiteAdvisor Plus service that offers advanced protection such as safety checking links in email and prevents you from accidentally going to dangerous sites.

Bottom line: Whether it's Cyber Monday or any other day of the year, only go to sites that you know and trust. If you're in doubt look for reviews on the site or a phone number that you can call. Certifications from the Better Business Bureau (bbbonline.org/ ) or TRUSTe (trustee.org) are a help but no guarantee as are links from reputable comparison shopping sites like PriceGrabber, Shopping.com or Yahoo Shopping. Before entering financial or personal information on any site, look for a little lock in the lower right corner of your browser to be sure you're connected to a secure server and be sure you have the latest security updates from Microsoft or Apple and that you're using up-to-date internet security software to protect you from hackers, spyware, phishing and viruses.

Or, you could just drive to the mall and hope you don't get into a fender bender on the way or in the parking lot.
By Larry Magid
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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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