Online retailers rev up deals to keep merchandise moving

An estimated 96 million people were expected to shop online and take advantage of Cyber Monday's deals, according to a National Retail Federation survey.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — An estimated 96 million people were expected to shop online and take advantage of Cyber Monday's deals, according to a National Retail Federation survey.

Though the Web is only about 10 percent of the holiday shopping pie, it has seen most of the growth so far this year – an encouraging sign after last year's first online sales decline.

Coremetrics, a Web analytics company in San Mateo, Calif., said that, as of Monday afternoon, sales for the day were up 19.6 percent over a year ago.

"Today there are fantastic deals all day long," said WRAL shopping expert Faye Prosser. "There were more shoppers this Black Friday than last, but they bought less per person, which means there is still a lot of merchandise to move."

More than 87 percent of retailers were offering discounts online Monday, which was up from 83.7 percent last year, according to the National Retail Foundation.

Prosser searched the Internet Monday and found Guitar Hero software for 50 percent off, and only 33 percent had been claimed at the time. She also found $25 gift cards selling on for $2 with the promo code "SAVE."

"Keep in mind, there are some stipulations," Prosser said. "For example, with those gift cards, some of them have a minimum purchase of $25, $35 or $45. Just make sure you read the fine print."

Deeply discounted electronics such as flat-screen TVs, game systems and netbooks were popular, but more practical items such as appliances and home decor were also big sellers, as consumers took advantage of sales to buy things for themselves.

Target, Walmart, and other retailers started offering the online equivalent of Black Friday specials on Thanksgiving or even earlier.

They stepped it up Monday. was discounting the Apple iPod Touch 8GB for $158, $20 less than Sunday and $40 off the retail price of about $200. offered a deal Monday for a Garmin GPS system for $186.99, down from $249.99. Free shipping was also prevalent.

The Monday after Thanksgiving is usually far from the busiest online shopping day of the year, but it is typically one of the top 10 busiest. It was dubbed "Cyber Monday" by the National Retail Federation trade group in 2005 to describe the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The thinking was that shoppers who lacked broadband Internet access at home would wait until returning to work to look online. Now that most homes have broadband, that rationale has faded.

Analysts expect Dec. 14, the last day consumers can order goods and have them arrive before Christmas, will be the busiest online shopping day.

The Better Business Bureau recommends taking the following steps to fight identity theft this holiday season:

Online Shopping Tips

BBB recommends that online shoppers:

  • Confirm the legitimacy of all “trust marks.” You can confirm that certification from organizations such as BBB, Versign or TRUSTe is legitimate by clicking on the seal. A legitimate seal will direct you to the certifying organization’s Web site.
  • Make online purchases with a credit card. If the credit card number lands in the hands of ID thieves, remember your Fair Credit Billing Act protection which allows you to dispute the charges with your credit card company.
  • Only pay on a secured site. Always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site when using Internet Explorer, BBB recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page to select “Properties.” This will let you see the real URL (Web site address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted. If using Firefox, click on Tools in the menu bar, then Page Info.
In-Store Shopping Tips

BBB offers the following advice for shoppers:

  • Prevent pick pocketing. Keep your purse tucked securely under your arm and your wallet in a front pocket or other safer place than a back pocket. And don’t bog yourself down by too many shopping bags.
  • Keep receipts in your wallet. Retailers are required to maintain the privacy of all but the last four digits of the credit or debit card used to make a purchase but it is still a good idea to keep all your receipts together in safe place rather than in your bag.
  • Review your credit card statement regularly. Check your credit card activity weekly during the holiday season—rather than waiting for the statement at the end of the month—in order to catch suspicious charges as quickly as possible and immediately report any irregularities to your credit card company.
Fight E-mail Phishing Attempts

BBB recommends the following steps to protect your computer from hackers:

  • Purchase anti-virus software from a business you trust. Make sure you update your computer’s operating system, browser program, and antivirus software and install all security patches.
  • Be wary of emails from retailers, banks or shipping businesses. If you receive an e-mail from your bank, retailer or a shipping company claiming that there is a problem with your account or delivery, do not click on any links in the email or reply with any information. Instead contact the business directly to confirm the issue.
  • Be extremely cautious when viewing e-cards. In the past, scammers have created fake e-mail notices that claim generically that a "friend" or "family member" has sent them a card. In some cases, victims have clicked on a link that has installed a virus on their computer or their computer caught the virus when the victims installed supposed software needed to view the e-card.



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