As the holiday shopping season kicks into full swing, consumers should be aware of the growing number of online shopping scams being reported.
When it comes to shopping scams, the number one rule is: If the price sounds too good to be true, many times it is. But for consumers looking for insane Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, sometimes it can be hard to tell what's a screaming deal and what's a shopping scam.
What can consumers do to help avoid getting ripped off? Here are five tips:
Don't click on pop-ups. Pop-ups advertising deals typically fail to deliver on what they promise. At best, they could be a waste of time; at worst, clicking on a pop-up ad may expose your computer to viruses or other malware.
Only buy from sites that accept credit cards. Using a credit card for online purchases offers an extra layer of security for consumers. In addition, requirements that 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 be wary of unfamiliar sites that come up in your search results.
Do some research. Search engines can be helpful, however, for double-checking the legitimacy of a website. Before making a purchase from an unfamiliar site, look up the company with the word "review" and see what (if any) experiences other shoppers may have had.
Be wary of online auctions. Online auctions account for three-quarters of complaints registered with the FBI's internet division. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the site's rules and fraud policies. Avoid paying via wire-transfer or sending cash, and insist on safe shipping methods that provide tracking and shipping insurance.
Learn more about online scams, identity theft, and more at FindLaw's Learn About the Law section on Consumer Protection.