You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 11:05 a.m.

Cyber Monday carries risk of increased identity theft as online shopping grows

By Ben Freed

There is a dark side to Cyber Monday. With so many people giving up their personal information to shop online at steep discounts, “cybergangs” are gearing up to steal as much of that information as possible, according to a report from USA Today.


Many online retailers offer special deals like free shipping to entice shoppers on Cyber Monday.

According to, 41 percent of consumers plan to use online shopping this year, up from 37 percent last year. According to the report, as those millions of people log into websites, many of them are doing so on outdated versions of web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Apple’s Safari. Older browser versions are not updated with the latest security patches that can protect users from cyber-theft.

The USA Today story offers tips for shoppers looking to avoid having their identities stolen that include being wary of links shared over social media and avoiding using a debit card for online transactions.

Click here to read the full USA Today article.

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 10:04 p.m.

My pay-pal account just got hit this weekend.


Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

and I haven't even used in over a year!


Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

Cyber Monday is a marketing myth (wired et al). Better t to use "prepaid" amounts for specific purchases. You already have been compromised - so what? You can minimize the damage and complicate your personal info access if you understand that. As pointed out in previous article comments, turkey day cyber shoppers were saving more than the early birds sticking their craws out at the mall for a bargain. More Friday shoppers this year but fewerbuys (blame it on Cyber Thursday).

Kai Petainen

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

it's not fear-mongering. it's educating the public. I was a victim of identity theft. someone walked into a home depot and stole almost $8,000 of $200 gift certificates with a Paypal app and my name. it wasn't me. I wrote about it here: "How To Protect Yourself From PayPal Identity Theft"

Some Guy in A2

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

Educating the public involves teaching them how to spot attacks and fake sites. Neither article does this to any real degree. Fear mongering involves throwing around emotional statements without providing any hard data to back them up. No one disputes that there is crime online but you need to provide more useful information than "criminals are gearing up" and "use reputable sites" to actually be helpful.

Some Guy in A2

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

While it is good to update your browser, both this story and the one linked to are nothing but fear mongering. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for 2011 (their most recent report), Michigan ranks 37th in the nation in number of "cyber crime" complaints (69 per capita). Of all complaints, only 36.9% involved a financial loss. So about 25 people per year (per capita) in Michigan reported loosing money online in a crime. Keep in mind this report covers ALL types of "cyber crime." Identity theft represented about 9% of all complaints received in 2011. Extrapolating the rates, that means Michigan had about 6 people (again, per capita) issue some form of complaint about identity theft. For the whole year. Note that this doesn't even take in to account the distinction between "attempted" ID theft that got reported and a successful theft of ID. Let's compare our per capita rate to simple good-old-fashioned robbery. In Michigan (according to the state police), the rate was 115. In Michigan in 2011, you were nearly 20 TIMES more likely to actually get robbed in person than face attempted ID theft online. Why then didn't we have an article warning us that criminal low-lifers were "gearing up" to rob us this holiday season considering it is a heck of a lot more relevant? Articles like the above do nothing to actually warn people how to protect themselves. Updating one's browser will do almost nothing to stop direct online ID theft. Those who don't bother to fully confirm who they are interacting with will always be at risk. When I was a child, my parents taught me to never give out personal information over the phone unless I made the call and completely knew who I was talking to. Regardless of which decade we are in, advise like that will always apply wether on line or in real life. --- IC3 Report: MSP Report:

Some Guy in A2

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

Ben, a few points: A. Yes, there is an upward trend in total cyber crime with 3.4% up for 2010 to 2011 in the IC3 report. Although there isn't great data specifically tracking online people who are able to make purchases, we can look to a similar statistic in ecommerce growth. Between 2010 and 2011, there was an even larger upward trend in ecommerce with an "increase of close to 20%" (1). While there may be modest increases in cyber crime over the years, they don't come close to tracking the growth of online transactions. For the rate of cyber crime to have any relevance, it would need to track or exceed the growth rate of our online population and that just isn't the case. B. I am not commenting on other news articles here on address the quality of those just fine. I am, however, addressing the quality, accuracy, and relevancy of this article. C. Yes, Michigan saw $8.8m in total reported online crime losses. How about putting that in perspective? Two pages further down in the IC3 report, it shows Michigan's per capita losses at $35.73. In all of Washtenaw county, that represents $124. There were more words in your article than dollars lost per capita in Washtenaw county. D. Having read both articles repeatedly, I strongly feel my original conclusion applies. For example, how are "cyber criminals" gearing up? Is there any evidence (anecdotal or otherwise) that the volume of their attacks is going up, or is it just that more people are buying online? Statements like these are intended to invoke emotion (fear in this case). Without details, they really don't help. As a 10 year IT security professional, I have to say both of these articles are extremely short on useful details. Saying "shop on reputable sites" does nothing when amazon/paypal/etsy (etc) get impersonated all the time if you don't say how to spot the fakes. --- 1: (

Ben Freed

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 6:18 p.m.

Some Guy, While you are right that it is currently more likely to be a victim of an "old fashioned" robbery than online identity theft, if you look at the trends in the very same documents you provided, cyber attacks are on the rise (there's a spike in 2009, but an otherwise steady upward trend) while robberies are trending downwards (over the five years shown in the report). We try to do our best to give people a picture of what is going on in the world around them and where that world is heading. We have two fantastic cops reporters who give daily updates on crime that happens in and around Ann Arbor. This was a report that touched on a issue that can cause concern for our readers as they shop online this year. In the linked article there are more tips than just updating ones browser, I encourage you to look into them. Also, from the same report you supplied, Michiganders were defrauded of over $8 million in 2011. Seems like something worth reporting on to me. Ben

Some Guy in A2

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 6:08 p.m.

Note the MSP report link was truncated: If it is truncated again, here is the short link to the same document: