TIP: Black Friday and Cyber Monday Shopping

An estimated 164 million people planned to shop during Thanksgiving weekend, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. That includes Cyber Monday, when online shoppers are estimated at 48 percent of all shoppers, or 78.4 million. Here are some tips on popular scams to be aware of this time of year

Because many retailers now have chip card readers, fraud at bricks-and-mortar stores is down. So scammers have shifted their efforts online, according to the Better Business Bureau in Florida and the Caribbean. Use a credit card — instead of a debit card — to make purchases online, the BBB recommends. When buying from a website, make sure it’s secure by looking for https in the address (the extra “s” is for “secure”) and for a lock symbol, experts say.

Shoppers should also go directly to a retailer’s website or use its app to make a purchase, instead of clicking on a link in an email or in social media. But be aware of fakes – fraudsters often take well-known brands and create a copycat website with a few extra words in the URL. To guard against these fake sites, search online for the real company’s website. Double check information such as a company’s street address on the site. Also, watch out for clone apps, experts say. These may look like they’re from your favorite retailer, but they are infected with malware and designed to steal your data. When shopping on your smartphone or tablet, download apps from an official app store, such as Apple’s iTunes.

Another popular scam this time of year is an email that says a shipper is trying to deliver a package, or that a package is undeliverable. If you don’t remember providing your email address to the shipper, it could be a phishing attack or an attempt to steal passwords, personal information or worse – your identity.

If any of these scams happen to you, contact your financial institution, law enforcement agency, or you can report the scam here on my website.