Stay Alert! Watch out for fake retail sites

As you start your holiday shopping, you'll no doubt be looking for great deals   that is, the best prices for the items you want to buy. Keep in mind, however, that some prices truly are too good to be true. Fake websites that advertise extreme bargains and mimic actual shopping sites are out there, and they want to trick you out of your money by not sending you the products you order or sending you shoddy look-alike products instead.

At these sites, you may be asked to "update" your credit card information before you make a purchase. Or you may complete a transaction, only to receive nothing and likely have your credit card number put up for sale on the dark web. Some fake sites may even install malware on your computer.

To spot fake sites, look for the following telltale signs:

~ Ridiculously low prices

~ Sloppy website design

~ Poor English usage

~ Requirement to pay via money order, cash, or wire transfer instead of by credit card ~ Requests for personal information such as your Social Security number ~ No refund policy

In addition to steering clear of sites with these characteristics, you should avoid clicking internet ads and email links. If you want to click a link found in a search, check out the URL carefully first. Most legitimate websites now use "https" rather than "http" at the beginning of their URL. Suspicious URLs may include the real retailer's name plus extra words like "deals." One example of this phenomenon is the site pandorapick.com, which mimics the legitimate site of the jewelry company Pandora, which is at pandora.com.

If you think you've already been scammed, file a complaint with your state's attorney general https://www.usa.gov/state-attorney-general, the Better Business Bureau https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started, or the Federal Trade Commission https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.

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