While Black Friday 2011 had frenzied shoppers pepper spraying, violently fighting and trampling others while trying to score the best deals, the madness continues online, as hackers gear up for virtual holiday shopping day of the season, Cyber Monday.

Last year, Cyber Monday accumulated nearly $1 billion in online sales, surpassing Black Friday. In 2011, the search term Cyber Monday deals has increased over 400 percent in global monthly searches, according to Google statistics data, proving this year will be even bigger.

While Monday marks a frenzied online shopping day, brick and mortar stores panned out quite well on Black Friday this year, with a 6.6 percent increase from 2010. Shoppers spent a record $11.4 billion nationwide according to a report from ShopperTrak, which collects data from 25,000 outlets across the country.

The National Retail Federation reported that more than one third of shoppers will do their holiday shopping online, most likely exceeding $1.2 billion on Monday, Nov. 28. Online sales are expected to jump as high as 15.2 percent this year, according to ComScore.

With so much hype for the biggest virtual shopping day of the year on the horizon, online shoppers must play it safe on Cyber Monday and protect themselves while scoring the best deals.

Here are some tips for safe shopping and for scoring the best deals on Cyber Monday 2011.

1.       Use Good Judgment

This is one time it's not only acceptable but preferable to judge a book by its cover. Carefully choose which Web sites you shop from, sticking to trustful major retailers that are reputable. If a Web site looks sketchy, or underdeveloped, or promising an absurd deal, it most likely is a phony. And most likely, major reputable retailers like Amazon, Walmart or Target are offering the same sale, if not a better deal.

2.       Ensure Your Safety

While shopping, ensure the area is safe and conducted over a secure connection. It's better to shop privately at home where you know the connection is secure, rather than in a public place or at work where a third party can retrieve your personal information.

3.       Watch Where Your Step

Do not click on any links from e-mails or on social networking Web sites, especially if they offer a free gift card or electronic device, as they are more likely scams. If you cannot find the deal using a simple Google search, it's a fake.

4.       Take Precautions

Before you even begin scouring the web for deals, ensure your computer software, browser and all essential security tools (spam filters, anti-virus, anti-spyware and a secure firewall) are in place and up-to-date.

5.       Double Check Security Measures

When checking out an order from an online shopping Web site, always make sure the merchant has a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Web certificate. Look for the s in the hyperlink address (page begins with https:// instead of http://) for ensured security.

6.     Return Policies

Beforehand, familiarize yourself with the Web site's return and exchange policies, if you think there is even a slight chance of returning an item. Also, check out the company's shipping offers, which might be complimentary as many Web sites are offering free shipping for the holidays.

7.       Keep Receipts

Gone are the days of keeping old receipts in a shoebox to collect dust. Nowadays, you can file all of your receipts online easily, to ensure you get what you purchased for the correct price.

8.       Use a Credit Card

The Better Business Bureau suggests that all online shoppers use a credit card rather than wire transfers or other means, as they can be tracked. Also, many credit cards have protection against fraud, which credit card users can benefit from.

Tips for Scoring the Best Deals

Before you shop on Cyber Monday, remember to do your homework because it will pay off with getting the best deals. Always check for coupons or special offer codes online, as many large retailers offer additional savings, sometimes involving the Web user to click around on the site. Also, you can run a search via Google with the retailer's name and the word coupons to find some unpublicized sales. Finally, check for free shipping as most stores offer free postage for online shoppers.

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