More Online Shopping Means More Online Scams This Season

Today, we give thanks for food, family and friends. Tomorrow, many of us are giving thanks for the Internet.

In the past few years, online shopping has revolutionized Black Friday and the rest of the holiday shopping season. Instead of braving long lines and crowded shopping malls on a quest for the best deals early Friday morning, we can find some of the same sales - and some better - from the comfort from our own homes. And it couldn't have happened at a better time.

With most folks already struggling to pay the bills, we don't have much to spare when it comes to shopping for Christmas gifts. Unlike traditional shopping, the Internet allows instant price comparisons, access to way more stores - and potential deals - than we'd ever be able to visit on foot or by car, and less temptation for spur-of-the-moment spending, since there are no distracting window displays or sales people (though those pop-ups can be annoying).

But as with any good thing, there's always a catch - in this case, online scams.

Fraudsters know that even the most cash-strapped consumers will have their credit cards out this season. To take advantage, they're setting up websites that look - and accept payments - like real retailer sites. But instead of shipping your items, they take your money and run. And even legitimate sites can become a problem if a scammer steals your personal info while you pay - a real possibility if you're using a public computer or an open Wi-Fi network.

Fortunately, you can avoid getting tricked by using common sense. For instance, don't trust sites that ask you to wire money or use another unusual form of payment - signs that the money is going straight into a personal, rather than a business, account. Make sure you're using a secured form of checkout from your personal computer. And be wary of suspicious prices. Sure, you're looking for a good deal, but if the size flat-screen TV you're interested in normally retails for between $500 and $800, yet an unrecognizable website is offering it for $59.99, something is probably amiss.

Want advice on avoiding scams year-round? Check out the free tips in our video learning center. And if you're looking for ways to save money this season, don't let all the sales distract you from what might be the root of your problem - debt. Bankruptcy can offer a reliable way to lower debts, reducing payments to creditors so you can keep more of your paycheck for yourself. Find out more about how bankruptcy can help your unique financial situation when you sign up for a no-cost personal debt analysis with one of our Atlanta bankruptcy attorneys. Seasonal sales only come once a year, but debt relief will pay off all year long.

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