( -- Cyber Monday has arrived, and experts predict this year's economic impact will be bigger than ever.

It's a huge shopping event, but also a big day for cyber criminals looking for shoppers with their guard down and wallets open.

Cyber sales are expected to be up by 18% this year compared to 2011. One survey estimates more than 100 million people will log on to shop.

Two billion dollars will be spent on Monday between midnight and 6 a.m., and throughout the day, said Dr. Benjamin Akande, the dean of the Webster University business school. What you're seeing in the case of Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, and even some of the smaller players, is that they're responding to each others prices in real time.

Criminals target cyber shoppers because they are willing to spend money and looking for the best deals possible. Spam on social media sites is more common this year. Users are more likely to trust posts from friends, and click on links that could be scams.

Shopping on smart phones and handheld devices has grown significantlysince last year's holiday shopping season.

Almost twenty-four percent of purchases are being done on handheld devices, according to Akande.

To keep personal and financial information safe, make sure the website is secure. Look for an s after the http in the URL.

Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit card transactions offer more protection.

Beware of public WIFI hot spots. When using the free wifi in public, crooks can access any information transmitted. If used correctly, comparing prices on handheld devices can mean significant savings.

The most powerful accessory this weekend and over the next couple of weeks, is your iPhone. If you know how to use it effectively it can save you hundreds of dollars, said Dr. Akande.

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