With an increasing number of people shopping for gifts on the Internet during the holidays, the chances for a fraud is unexpectedly high.

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance’s executive director, Michael Kaiser, scammers are well aware of the people’s fervent desire to fulfill their holiday lists and mostly, in a hurry.

One of the ways that scammers attract holiday shoppers is to hand over their credit card information using highly lucrative sales advertisements. For instance, an advertisement should be considered too good to be true — if say, a new iPad has been offered at the same cost as a box of Legos — then it most likely is.

Kaiser further warns that if most of the retailers are selling their products/items within a particular price bracket while one amidst them quotes a remarkably low price for the same, then that it's a tell-tale sign of a possible scam, enough to deter consumers from buying at such a website.

To help holiday shoppers avert a financial harakiri, here are some tell-tale signs of online shopping scams:

  • Look for the lock - According to the experts, it’s better to use credit cards rather debit cards when shopping online. This is because credit cards are safer in the event of an identity theft or phishing or treachery by the retailer. For example, credit cards are well-guarded if the selling price of an item doesn’t tally with the advertised price. However, it is important to verify whether or not your credit card information will be encrypted by the website before furnishing your financial details like an account number. Once encrypted, your credit card data will only be accessed by you and the concerned authorities of the retailer. To identify a genuine website from a fake one, you should look for the site encryption HTML tag “https” or a lock icon on the website’s URL. But, if you find that a warning sign along with the lock or if there’s a red line through the URL, then a website having them is partially encrypted and must be abandoned.
  • Use third-party payments - Millions of consumers have suffered huge financial losses just because their confidential credit card data were stolen from their favorite online shopping portal’s database. Hence, if you’re jittery about sharing your financial details online, then you could very well take advantage of the third-party payment applications (or apps) like Amazon Payments, Pay Pal or Apple Pay. The benefit of these apps is that your retailer won’t have to juggle with your credit card information while you make your payment via a trusted third-party tool. Moreover, your credit card data are stored in a single database rather at multiple stores.
  • Check reviews - When shopping for a unique gift at a not-so-popular website or vendor, then in such cases it’s best to use third-party payment tools to pay for the items you purchase. Still, before clicking ‘buy’, do make it a point to check the reviews regarding the retailer or ratings provided by the previous consumers. Basically, community policing as well as voting serves right while verifying the authenticity of a website.
  • Sign up for alerts - After having taken so many precautionary measures, you could still be robbed of your credit card details. So, it’s important that you always keep a tab on your financial accounts as well as set up a mechanism where you’re updated of every move made using them. You can use services like text alerts or email notifications and link them to your bank or credit card accounts. Even some credit unions offer these services and therefore, you can work with them to secure your finances. These services are vital, especially during shopping seasons, since having a timely alert sent to your phone via text messages will enable you to take prompt preventive measures and stop paying for an item you don't recognise having bought.

Millions of dollars are at stake. For instance, on Cyber Monday (the day after Thanksgiving) retailers put up big discount offers on the Internet. On such a day, around 183.8 million people are expected to shop online, as told by the National Retail Federation.

So, if you’re planning to be amongst those who’d surf for promotional deals, then you should consider applying these tips to keep your financial information and credit card purchases safe.

Beware of the advertisements that sell $20 iPad. Be careful and wary of a website that wants to sell you an item at an eye-popping price.

Don’t miss out - Keep safe: Know scams that can spoil the festive spirit

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