We're just a few days away from Black Friday, and many people will do their holiday shopping this year online. I know it, you know it...and scam artists know it, too.

Due to the pandemic and all of its associated restrictions, lockdowns, and mitigations, experts believe we'll see the highest level of online shopping that we've seen yet. And, because it's easier and safer to rip you off via the internet rather than grabbing your wallet, purse, or recently-purchased gifts out at the mall, scammers are waiting for the unwary to make a costly mistake.

Luckily, we've got the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) keeping an eye on what the unscrupulous members of society are up to.

Dennis Horton, Director of the Rockford Regional Office of the BBB, dropped me note with some tips to share on keeping your online shopping both safe and smooth.

Let's start out with false advertising and phony websites. A good rule of thumb to follow is the old axiom "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." If you find the hottest products of the season at a price that's waaaaaaay below what you're seeing elsewhere, it should be a red flag. Always make sure websites use the correct spelling of business names and offer contact information, along with customer service numbers. Misspellings and incorrect information can be tipoffs that the website belongs to a scammer.

Another warning the BBB offers is to be sure that you're shopping at a reputable website. If you've never heard of them before, proceed with extreme caution.

Something else to consider is your device's virus protection software. Make sure it's all up-to-date before you start an online shopping spree. Scammers aren't always trying to sell you fake goods. Sometimes they're looking to compromise your computer or other devices.

Remember to use your credit card for online shopping, not your debit card. That's a good habit to get into, regardless of the time of year. Credit cards have built-in protections in the event you get scammed, like the ability to contest a purchase, but most debit cards don't.

And, there's the phony classified ad scam. The BBB warns to always meet in a public place to make the exchange, and test any electronic devices before paying. If a seller has posted an item on a local classified site but says it needs to be shipped, that's an automatic red flag.


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