Watch Out for Holiday Shopping Scams

Pumpkin pies might be in the oven and football on the TVs, but there's something else on the minds of most Americans today - shopping strategies for the infamous Black Friday.

I know, it's old news that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. But there's a new twist on the tradition - almost half of sales this year might actually take place online.

With most of us living paycheck to paycheck already, we don't have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to our holiday budgets. And the Internet offers unlimited access to sales and clearances and a great way to compare prices, helping us save time as well as money. Unlike store shopping, online shopping allows you to look specifically for what you want without getting sidetracked by fancy displays or pushy sales clerks. And maybe best of all, you don't have to freeze your butt off standing in lines at the crack of dawn.

But as always, there's a catch. This time, it's online shopping scams.

Scam artists are setting up shop to take advantage of consumers desperate for good deals. Sometimes they'll set up a web page that looks authentic, but is really just a way to get your credit card information. Or they'll simply steal your personal information as you shop other online stores. Not all bad deals are complete scams - for instance, you might make a valid purchase from an online shop but not realize that, by creating an account to make that purchase, you've also been automatically signed up for future services you don't want.

Luckily, it isn't that hard to identify suspicious deals once you know what to look for. So what's a dead giveaway? Don't trust any site that asks you to wire money - it's a sure sign your cash would go directly to the account of a scam operation. Make sure you're using a secure checkout system. Take notice of prices that are radically low. Yes, you're looking for deals - but prices for the same good tend to fall within a certain range. Lastly, avoid shopping from a public computer or Wi-Fi network - you could be making your personal information available - stick to recognizable retailers and read the fine print before you buy.

For tips on avoiding other financial scams, check out our video learning center. And if you're looking for a way to save money this season, consider conquering your debt. Bankruptcy can provide a realistic way to lower debts, freeing up money by reducing your payments and interest. Find out if bankruptcy could put you back in control of your finances with a free personal debt analysis with a Chicago bankruptcy lawyer. Seasonal saving is good, but permanent saving is better.

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