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Cyber Monday 2016: The best bargains — and how to protect yourself

Consumers hit the web in record numbers to shop over the holiday weekend, and they are likely to stay online to take advantages of Cyber Monday sales.

About 122 million Americans are expected to shop online today as retailers roll out a new batch of deals projected to generate $3.36 billion in sales.

But are Cyber Monday deals better than Black Friday bargains? It depends.

"We’ve got different sales today. Some of them are not quite as good. Some of them are better," TODAY financial adviser Jean Chatzky said Monday.

Among the deep-discount items to look for:

  • Televisions and computers
  • Winter apparel and shoes
  • Books
  • Travel deals (particularly airfares to destinations overseas)

Numerous clothing retailers also are offering big discounts, like 50 percent off everything at Gap and Banana Republic, Chatzky noted. Discount chain Target is offering an additional 15 percent off purchases, and many places are offering free shipping or additional cuts if the purchase is made with the company's credit card.

Deals are out there, as long as you know where to look and have done homework by checking out reviews for big-ticket items. Chatzky said consumers can get help from the app "Camel Camel Camel," which tracks pricing history on Amazon "so you'll see if it's ever been sold at a lower price."

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Cyber Monday expected to draw 122 million Americans online

Play Video - 2:12

Cyber Monday expected to draw 122 million Americans online

Play Video - 2:12

But she also sounded warnings, particularly because of an increase this holiday season of fraudulent apps. She said cautionary signs for fake retail and product apps include:

  • No product reviews
  • If there are reviews, most or all of them are written in faulty, butchered English
  • The app lacks previous versions

Chatzky also suggested several steps for protecting your personal information during purchases:

  • Make sure you have downloaded latest security updates.
  • Do not use public Wi-Fi.
  • Use credit over debit; while both typically have zero-liability protection, "it's a hassle to get your money back if it's stolen," she said.
  • Stick to one charge card, because it's easier to track shopping purchases and detect fraud.
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