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Online Shopping Safety Through the Holidays

As Christmas rolls around, online shopping is at an all-time high. But many people are vulnerable to theft or loss, even over the internet. Consumers should be aware of the growing number of online shopping scams and what they may mean for your pockets. While it sounds appealing to buy from a site offering the best deal, sometimes the price really is too good to be true. As Black Friday and Cyber Monday draw near, it can be hard to tell what's a really good deal and what is a scam. Here are some expert tips to avoid being ripped off and having to have the hassle of filing charges.

Don't click on pop-ups. Pop-ups advertising deals typically are not reliable and do not promise what they say they do. Real companies usually do not have pop-up deals (the little windows that suddenly appear, usually with flashing lights), but they might have in-browser ads. These pop-ups might be a waste of time and link you to additional information about the "deal," but they could also be a way for scammers and hackers to expose your computer to viruses and malware.

Only buy from sites that accept credit cards. Using a credit card for online purchases offers an additional layer of protection for consumers, because most credit cards have protections to avoid fraud and refund you in the event something does go wrong. In addition, sites that require purchases be made using wire transfers or gift cards should be a red flag for consumers. If a site doesn't accept credit cards, it may be best to shop somewhere else.

Watch what you search. Scammers know that consumers may use a search engine to search for items with words like "discount" and "deal," so do your research. If an unfamiliar site pops up in your search, Google it to see if there have been any complaints. You might have just been unaware of the site, or it might actually be a ploy for online scammers. Online reviews are a great idea, and even checking the Better Business Bureau can expose any complaints. Searching the internet for a specific brand might lead you to more reputable sites to do your shopping.

Be wary of online auctions. Online auctions make up 75% of the complaints registered with the FBI's internet division. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the site's rules and fraud policies. Sites like eBay lay out these policies in black and white, but other smaller sites might be a cover up for unscrupulous sellers seeking a quick buck. Avoid paying via wire-transfer or sending cash, and insist on safe shipping methods that provide tracking and shipping insurance.

If you shop during the holidays, make sure to protect yourself. If you find you have been the victim of theft, call our office today so we can help you file a criminal charge against the other party.

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