ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Cyber Monday can be the last chance to save big time on holiday shopping but it’s also a day for criminals to steal your identity and banking information if you are not careful shopping online.  

Simply clicking on a sketchy link or ad sent to you can be the difference between hackers getting access to your personal information. Although it’s convenient to shop online and get what you want instantly, cyber security specialists urge you to take extra time to know if the sites are legit.

In 2021, research by Adobe found Americans spent about $10.8 Billion on Cyber Monday shopping. But as more customers participate in this digital age of holiday shopping, criminals also get more opportunities.  

“This is one of the most exciting times of the year for everybody, including cybercriminals,” Professor Jonathan Weissman of Computer Security at RIT said. “You have to remain extra vigilant and aware of everything you’re going now because cyber criminals are waiting.”  

In this day and age, cybercriminals can get their websites promoted to the top of any search engine to look legit. If you have any suspicion, cyber security experts encourage you to open a new browser and re-type the business name and products to look for matching results.  

“When you click on a malicious link you could be redirected to a site that looks like the site you think you’re doing business with,” Professor Weissman continued. “When you enter your credentials, they go right to the cybercriminals.”  

Making purchases over a public Wi-Fi connection can also be dangerous.  

Professor Weissman added, “You run the risk of going to an attacker’s access point and connecting to their network thinking you’re on a legitimate network and in essence, you can actually transfer all your information directly to the attacker.”  

Email and text message phishing is also becoming a common tactic where hackers install malware or ransomware within digital gift cards or links. Experts explain legit businesses almost never reach out with these types of attachments.  

“Ransomware will encrypt and lock your system,” Professor Weissman said. “You will have to pay a ransom fee to the cybercriminals to get your files back.”  

A quick and easy way to check any website is real is at the beginning of the link if you see the URL begin with http: but no S, that means it’s not secured, and any hacker can observe your every move on that platform like watching TV.  

Shoppers should also make all their purchases with credit cards instead of debit so it’s easier to flag suspicious activity and you don’t lose actual money.