Black Friday shopping tips: 10 ways to avoid being ripped off

Did you know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday signals the time of the year when consumers are often at the highest risk of falling victim to hackers and scammers whose schemes can fool the most experienced shoppers. Millions of shoppers will hit the stores and shop on line for the best deals of the year. Just remember before you hit the street or let your fingers do the on line shopping, be aware of the scammers. Always remember all deals are not created equal.

The "Know Your Enemy" PIX11 team has 10 tips that will keep you from malicious scammers that come out in droves during the Holiday season.

1- Free iPad? Black Friday discounts, retailers tend to price similar items within a general range. Scam artists often lure shoppers to their web sites with outrageously low prices. Shop around to get an idea of how much other retailers are asking for the same or similar items. Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

2 -Used gift cards, look up reviews for any 3rd-party seller offering used gift cards for sale. The FBI warns cards reported as stolen can later be disabled, leaving you with a worthless piece of plastic.

3-One day only" bargain e-mails: If you receive any unsolicited Black Friday or Cyber Monday e-mail, don't click the links, and don't give them your credit card number. It's most likely part of some kind of scam.

4-Stay away from pop-up ads, many pop-ups unleash spy ware or viruses when you click on them.Be sure you have the latest firewall and anti-virus software installed on your computer to protect against online attacks.

5-Be aware off fake auctions or classified ads, just like with the used gift cards, make sure the seller is legit by doing a Goggle search of their name, username, e-mail address.

6-Always watch out for bulk email, it's quite obvious when email that you get on your computer or smart phone is a mass mailing trying to get you to buy and buy and buy. Make a general rule not to purchase from companies that send out spam, you will be saving yourself a lot of trouble and money.

7-Remember to always use a credit card, not a debt card. Shopping with a debit card online puts your checking and savings account at risk if the information is stolen. Credit cards offer protections that debit cards don't, and you can dispute charges if needed. Uunder federal law, the shopper can dispute the charges if he or she doesn't receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card, and many card issuers have "zero liability" policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it. Also most importantly never wire money.

8-Use strong, unique passwords for all online accounts and include letters, numbers and symbols. Hackers employ special password-cracking software to guess their way into your accounts. Avoid using the same password for every account, it makes it easier for hackers.

9-Set up a Holiday email account to be only used for online shopping, many sites require accounts and email logins to use. By doing this your personal correspondence and information won't be at risk.

10-If your at the mall parking lot Do Not buy electronics from strangers that approach you. Nine out of ten times it's always a scam. Often someone will approach you with some story about how they need to sell "a $500 I Pad" or "this $300 head set" fast. The price is usually only $100 to $200, but when you're back home with the box you'll find there's nothing inside except a useless weighted object. Some of these creeps are pretty smart, they figured out how to re-wrap packages in plastic that looks it was never were opened.

So remember, Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping means more security threats. Follow the PIX11 "Know Your Enemy" tips and take the proper precautions, trust your gut, and you will greatly decrease your chances of being scammed by hackers during this special time of the year.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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