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Safe online shopping tips

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(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)

Many consumers will do their holiday shopping using the Internet this year. 

"So, the expectation is this will be the largest online shopping season ever," said Ken Colburn, a computer and technology expert with Data Doctors.

Colburn advised that before you turn to the Internet and spend your money, you should check your computer. In other words, make sure it's actually ready to shop. 

"It is super important that you make sure that Adobe, Java, Windows and all of those things are updated before you do your shopping, because you can be taken advantage of by scammers just by your computer not being updated," he said.    

Next, make sure you're on a legitimate retailer's website and not some site created by a scammer wanting to rip you off. One way to do that is to go to a site called Web of Trust. Once there, click on the box to add it on to your search browser for free. Once it's added on, anytime you use your search engine you'll see little colored circles next to the site you're looking for. Green circles mean the website is trustworthy and most likely safe to visit. 

"You'll get red, green and yellow signs right next to each search result, which lets you know that yellow and red you need to be cautious, and that green seems to be a site that people think is safe," Colburn said.    

Be careful when you're searching for the hottest holiday item that everyone seems to want like drones and Star Wars items, for example. Scammers will actually pose as a retailer, claiming they have the items in stock. 

"Be really careful when shopping for those because that's where scammers set up fake retail websites, Colburn said.  "You're going to think, 'OK, I got one of the items.' But then it's never going to show up, and not only will your kids be disappointed but you'll be out all that money, too."   

Once you find a legitimate site, save it.  

"Go to the site, make sure you're on the site, then bookmark it and use that bookmark to go to the site from then on," Colburn said.    

When it comes to actually making an online purchase, always use a credit card and not your debit card. Credit cards tend to be safer. More importantly, if you get ripped off using your credit card, your checking account won't be completely drained like it would be if you used your debit card.  

Finally, refrain from purchasing gift cards online. There's too much room for fraud to happen. Instead, Colburn recommends buying gifts cards in person.

When it comes to shopping online, take your time, verify all websites and keep your guard up this holiday season because it's going to be an active one. 

"Of course, the retailers are excited about that, but so are the cyber criminals. It's Christmas for cyber criminals, so you have to be paying attention," Colburn said. 

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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