(CBS News) – Black Friday has finally arrived, marking the official start to the 2016 holiday shopping season — poised to be one of the busiest in recent history.
Fifty-nine percent of Americans – more than 137 million people – have said they plan to shop this holiday weekend either in person or online, where Black Friday sales are expected to top $3 billion for the first time ever.
But with a record number of shoppers on mobile apps, experts warn to approach these new conveniences with a “buyer beware” mentality, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler.
Shoppers stampeded into stores across the nation, eager for those once-a-year Black Friday deals. But many started one day early.
“I just had Thanksgiving lunch and I just came shopping right after,” said one shopper.
Despite the rush, the real frenzy isn’t happening inside the stores; between midnight and 5:30 Thursday evening, $1.15 billion in sales had been racked-up online – up more than 13 percent from last year.
This year, 41 percent of all sales are projected to be made on mobile devices. That would be a record high.
“Any store that has an app, I use it. It’s easier,” said shopper Katty Sierra.
An estimated one-third of retailers now offer mobile apps, enabling people to use their smartphones to locate in-store items, find sales, and even check a competitor’s price.
“The margins have gotten tighter and tighter,” said Michelle Madhok, a blogger with SheFinds Media. “It’s a click to see what the other prices are. Before you had to drive from store to store to compare prices or go through tons of inserts in your newspaper.”
But that convenience has made retail apps the perfect target for cybercriminals. Chris Mason runs a company that builds mobile apps for retailers.
“For every hundred taken down, there would be 200 coming up and it became this big game of whack-a-mole,” said Mason, also the CEO of Branding Brand. Mason suggests only downloading apps from a retailer’s website, checking reviews, and avoiding third-party publishers.
“Two out of three major retailers still don’t have an app, so it’s — whenever that opportunity exists, fraudsters will basically will take that void as an advantage to put an app up,” Mason said.
Nearly one-quarter of those that will shop online this holiday weekend say they prefer it because they won’t be noticed shopping by family or friends.