As the holiday season approaches, every shopper should take precautionary measures when searching for the best deals online. Learning how to distinguish legitimate sites from fraudulent imitations is an effective way to safeguard your money and your identity. 

Here are some tips to consider when shopping online.

DON’T: Accept deals from online ads


Situation: You see an ad for that Wi-Fi + Bluetooth enabled toaster with a 4k ultra-high definition display (that you’ve been eyeing for months) is on sale for $20. You are so tempted by this great deal and you can’t wait for this new centerpiece for your coffee bar.

BUT WAIT (there’s more). Hovering over the link, you notice the ad wants to send you to an unusual website. Many online ads use several redirects to track hits; hackers have started to abuse this to send would-be shoppers to malicious websites.Your best bet is to search for items directly on the retailer’s site rather than clicking on online ads. When you discover ads on other sites, like social media, make sure to double-check where the links will take you.


DO: Shop from a secure home network


Hackers can access data sent over public Wi-Fi networks. Avoid sharing your credit card information on these unsecure networks and double-check a lock icon or “https://” in the address bar. 


DON’T: Open links in suspicious emails


Hackers often spoof retailers, sending out phishing emails with fake holiday deals or shipping notifications. Make sure to keep alert for phishing attempts, especially around the holiday season. Don’t click links in suspicious emails. Again, if you see a great deal on that toaster, your best bet is to verify these deals by going directly to the company website.


DO: Check your statement


Did you spot that $50 charge from Blockbuster on your statement? This time of year it is easy for these kinds of transactions to slip through. During heavy buying seasons card companies may not catch or flag every transaction, it is up to us as consumers to check through our accounts for fraudulent charges and other suspicious activity. (While you’re at it, this might be a good time to check your credit report for fraudulent accounts.)


DON’T: Overshare


Important personal information, such as your driver’s license or your social security numbers, should be shared sparingly and only when absolutely necessary. Retailers should not ask for this kind of information.