Online shopping

BROWNSVILLE — With bellies full of turkey, hundreds of shoppers turned out to Sunrise Mall for Black Friday to look for deals.

While there were lines at some stores, others were relatively slow.

Jay, a manager at Fragranza, a perfume and cologne shop in the mall who declined to give his last name, said so far Black Friday business has been slower than last year.

“The online business is killing us,” Jay said. “But I’m always positive and hope for the better. There’s ups and downs in business.”

However, that wasn’t the case over at Gamestop, where the line was out the door.

Eleazar Solis had just visited the popular video game store trying to find a Nintendo Switch. By mid-day Friday, he said he was out of luck. Solis hadn’t heard about Cyber Monday until asked about it.

“That sounds really cool,” Solis said. “I’ll look online.”

Data shows that consumers are spending more and more cash during the four-day Black Friday weekend that now starts on Thanksgiving and ends with Cyber Monday. And each year, the online share of those sales continues to grow.

Last year, data released by Adobe Digital Insights showed $9.36 billion in sales, including a new online sales record, with people buying more than $3 billion worth of merchandise online.

However, as online sales set records last year and are expected to continue that trend, Internet-savvy thieves will be lurking behind the browser, looking to capitalize on Black Friday and Cyber Monday by stealing from well-meaning online shoppers.

“So it’s unsurprising that a new Black Friday scam has emerged this holiday season, which includes more than 32,000 malicious Black Friday-themed apps spoofing the branding of top U.S. online retailers,” wrote Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee, on the anti-virus company’s blog.

According to RiskIQ, a digital threat management company, one in 25 Black Friday apps actually are fake. They are set up to look like well-known brands and trick consumers into providing identity and credit card information that can be used for nefarious purposes.

Luckily, the crime sleuths at the Houston FBI field office have some tips for online consumers.

“Well, if you’re going to do some online shopping, we recommend that you really do your homework and research the individual and company you are purchasing from,” FBI Houston Public Affairs Specialist Christina Garza said.

She suggests reading through previous reviews and speaking with people who have purchased from the company before entering credit card or bank account numbers. Additionally, consumers looking to buy from popular retailers via a mobile device should download the app directly from that retailer’s official website to avoid accidentally downloading malicious software.

“It’s very easy for someone to hide behind a computer, to hide behind an email, and get your attention for something that’s too good to be true,” Garza said. “They are basically looking for your information so they can steal it, and instead of that thing you were trying to buy, you become a victim of identity theft.”

Garza also warned consumers of phishing emails.

“A big recommendation is don’t click on any links from unsolicited emails. You know, there are copycat websites out there. You think it’s a legitimate company or vendor, or maybe even a financial institution, and they look very legit, they use the logos, website addresses are very similar, but in reality they are copycat websites and all they are looking for is for you to enter that identifying information and financial information,” Garza said.

If anyone does think they may have become the victim of thieves capitalizing on online holiday shopping sprees, Garza encouraged them to visit the FBI’s Internet Complaint Center online at to file a report.

“That’s the website we use to track down what kind of scams are out there,” she said. “So, if we see a number of scams coming from the South Texas area or the Houston area, we know this is something that is growing and we can send out warnings.”