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Christmas shopping Don’t let online scams ruin your holiday purchases

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    Everyone is preparing for Christmas shopping, so be prepared for online scams. METROGRAPHICS

Published December 02. 2019 09:54PM

The holiday season is quickly approaching, which means Americans are starting to prepare mentally and financially for the most wonderful time of the year.

According to a recent study by Experian, 43% of consumers who had their identity stolen say it happened while shopping online during the holidays.

To help you safely navigate this major online shopping holiday, here are some tips from Rebecca Gramuglia, retail expert at TopCashback.com.

With all of the different online shopping destinations this holiday season, it can be easy to click on this year’s must-have toy (Candylocks, WowWee Pinkfong Baby Shark Official Song Puppet, i.e.) and pay for it immediately.

And according to a recent survey conducted by TopCashback.com, 71 percent of Americans plan to shop online this year.

However, it’s important not to fall victim to identity theft or other not-so-jolly situations.

Save yourself from falling victim by recognizing these sources of scams

Avoid suspicious websites

Especially when looking for the hottest toy of the season, you may come across a variety of sites. However, if you see one that seems questionable, has an outdated design and/or has multiple pop-up windows, it may not be a legitimate retailer.

Refrain from making any purchases on these types of sites to ensure that your personal information does not get compromised.

Don’t overlook the URL. In addition to avoiding suspicious looking sites, make sure your site has either a little padlock icon on the left side of the search bar and/or says “HTTPS” — emphasis on the ‘S’. This layer of security is essential when online shopping and sharing personal information. If the site is not secured or the URL only features “HTTP,” your browser may point this out to you in the search bar.

Unsecure networks and devices

If you’re going to make any purchase online, make sure you take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Use security software and firewalls to keep your information secured.

Be sure to avoid public computers and public Wi-Fi networks to make sure no one can potentially access your information. And the top way to make sure your information is protected is to regularly change your password (usually every three to six months) to reduce the chances of someone accessing your personal profiles, data, etc.

Pay with protection

Ensure your online safety by not only logging onto a secure site and network, but also by making purchases online with either a credit card or through PayPal.

By using these payment methods, you’ll have an added layer of consumer protection that can guard you against fraud.

However don’t get a false sense of security, if you notice any suspicious activity on your credit card, contact your provider immediately.

Beware of phishing emails

While you’re skimming your email this holiday season for any coupons or promotions be wary of any enticing emails from an unfamiliar sender in your inbox.

Avoid the most common type of fraud by deleting any suspicious emails. Even if it looks somewhat legitimate, keep in mind that criminals use this scheme to get you to provide personal information.

You can also get a virus on your computer simply by opening the email, so be cautious.

In addition to unfamiliar emails, be on the lookout for phishing emails disguised as if they came directly from family members, co-workers, etc. If the message looks strange, double-check the sender address to see if it is actually from that person.

More often than not, your gut feeling is usually right, so delete the message immediately if it is actually not from a person you know.

Look out for gift-card scams

Scammers aren’t just interested in stealing your identity, credit- or debit-card information, some want your gift cards too. Be wary of any websites or phone representatives that only take gift cards from other retailers — like Walmart or Google Play gift card — for payment.

Any merchant who limits your payment options to gift card only is usually trouble.

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