Tips for avoiding scams while online Christmas shopping

Tips for avoiding scams while online Christmas shopping

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - With lots of us doing some frantic last minute online shopping, it's easy to get caught up in deal, or rather, what seems like one. It's a situation criminals are patiently waiting to take advantage of.

Attorney General Jim Hood's office gets calls all the time from folks who've been scammed, whether over the phone or online. The Better Business Bureau said those online scams always peak in December, the time when most of us are doing some digital domain shopping.

"The average loss is $101, and the most susceptible to this particular scam are young women," said Katherine Hutt with the Better Business Bureau.

Before you type in your credit card number, make sure the site you're on is secure. Check the URL link and look for the "S" after HTTP.

Also, look for the lock. That combination means the site is safe for transactions. Also, never click on links sent through unsolicited messages, whether in an email, a text or on social media. Those could send you straight to a criminal's fake website.

"Some of their websites look a lot like the actual true website of a legitimate company online but they may change it by one letter," Hood said.

If any online store requires you pay with a gift card or wire money, that's a red flag. Also, no legitimate online store will ask for your social security number or birthday.

"Although technology brings us so much good, there a lot of mischief out there too," Hood said. 
And where there's scarcity, you'll also find that mischief. If you're trying to track down hard to find gifts, don't jump at an offer without making sure it's the real deal, because counterfeit goods are big business. That also goes for anything on deep discount.

"You may miss out on a sale or two, but you're more likely to miss out on getting ripped off," Hutt said.

To avoid a rip off all together, you can always go to an actual store, where what you see is what you get. If that's not an option, Hood advises a cautious approach.

"Whether you're shopping at your local store or at a mall or online. Just use common sense and be careful," Hood said.