Avoiding holiday shopping scams

November 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The Internet is full of holiday bargains, as well as bogus offers. With more people constantly connected to their smart phones and tablets, scammers have new ways to phish for your information.

Shoppers have spread out to get an early jump on the holidays. But as you search for that must have gift, understand scammers are waiting for a momentary lapse in judgement.

Brian Gaines of Madera recalled when one of his friends bought the Xbox 360 online. "He got it, opened up on Christmas morning, went to plug it in for the kids and nothing came up on the screen. That's when they went to look at it and saw it was empty on the inside," said Gaines, "He was scammed and there was no recourse. There was no receipt, no store to take it back to."

Blair Looney of the Better Business Bureau in Fresno says people are more susceptible to being tricked during the holidays. "We're seeing that people get very excited over the bargain that they think they are going to get and in that moment of 'Oh I am going to score a great big deal,' they're willing to absent mindedly give out personal information."

With so many people now using their phones and tablets to shop on line, experts say it's very important you be on the lookout for scams.

Tracy Bohren is typical of a growing number of shoppers who use their phones and tablets while shopping. "Lately it's been much more on my phone because it is so easy. A lot of times I will price check when I'm in a store on my phone and find a better deal on line and buy on line."

But Hector Palacios of iDoctor repairs says the convenience of shopping on-line in public does come with potential problems. "You want to be on a secured wireless network. Sometimes people decide to go to Starbucks or McDonald's and connect to public wi-fi. There are actually methods where someone can connect to your device without you knowing and extract information."

Palacios says you're better off shopping online at home where your connection is more secure. "Don't go buy that flat screen TV on your iPad in the middle of the mall."

Research the companies and look for a physical address in case you need to return the item.

"Yeah I steer clear of things that seem kind of fishy, but I stick with the big name people," said Tracy Bohren.

Blair Looney says beware congratulatory messages for free gift cards. "Just click here and fill out the form, and when you do you're allowing the scammers to apply malware to your machine. Again, to harvest your personal information."

To add another layer of holiday security, make sure all of your smart devices have passwords.


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