Beware of Cyber Monday scams: Fake contests, dangerous links, texts and emails

Shoppers planning to hit the Internet on Monday looking for deals are being warned to watch out for scammers.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says cyber thieves know what the hot gift items are and they target their scams accordingly. That can include fake contests on social media sites, dangerous links, and texts and emails designed to get shoppers to reveal personal information or download malicious software.

Other recommendations to stay safe include making sure a website is legitimate and secure before ordering, install anti-virus software and a firewall, pay for credit card protection and print records of online transactions.

Similarly, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is warning of the "tricks and traps" some advertisers use to try to lure consumers into making purchases on Cyber Monday.

The Connecticut Democrat held a Friday morning news conference to highlight what he calls laughable, ludicrous and deceptive ads that consumers should be on the lookout for as the holiday shopping season begins.

He says tricks include overly broad advertisements, hidden fees when it's time to check out and emailed coupons that hide the fine print in links to other websites.

Blumenthal, who served previously as state attorney general, says consumers should always read the fine print while they do their holiday shopping.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that shoppers will spend an estimated $62 billion online this holiday season - up about 15 percent from 2012, says eMarketer, a firm that tracks e-commerce.

Scammers are relying less on email and more on social media, such as Facebook.

"When you see a post on someone's wall or a tweet from a colleague, treat it the same as an unsolicited email," says Chester Wisniewski, an expert with Sophos, writes on the global cybersecurity firm's blog.. "Don't click it. Go to the real source and if necessary contact the sender to confirm its veracity."