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Buying more gifts digitally than usual this year? Here’s what you need to know

We’ve all seen, or at least heard of, those infamous Black Friday videos that surface online year after year. You know the ones – a fight breaks out at a store, or the season’s hottest toy gets ripped out of a child’s hands. Luckily, more Black Friday deals are going to be online this year than ever before, so you won’t have to fight that kid over a Baby Yoda doll.

But online shopping might be a little confusing if you’re new to hunting for deals online, especially on one of the craziest shopping days of the year. To help you get the best savings without getting scammed, we’ve compiled some helpful tips for you to keep in mind before the madness begins.

Beware of spoofed sites

Online shopping can be a little overwhelming, and it can feel like there’s an infinite number of retailers to choose from. Try to stick to websites and stores that you’re already familiar with to do your shopping – but be aware that spoofed websites exist.

Spoofed websites are made to look just like real sites from legitimate companies. In reality, they’re a tool used by cyber criminals to steal your time, money and identity. Fortunately, these websites are often riddled with mistakes that you can identify if you’re looking for them:

Suspiciously low prices

Sure, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great times to find good deals, but you should be suspicious if the pricing on a website is too good to be true. Many spoofed sites will list drastically low prices in order for you to send them money – just don’t expect a package in the mail after buying. If you’re unsure, try shopping around at a few different stores to get an idea of whether or not the price of a product is questionably low.

The website is poorly designed

Legitimate e-commerce stores try to make your shopping experience as user friendly as possible. Spoofed sites don’t often have the same standards. Be on the lookout for red flags, like pixelated or blurry images, difficult to navigate pages and typos. The website may also be missing a return policy or a privacy policy, which are all signs that the site is likely fraudulent.

The website is asking for too much info

At check out, e-commerce sites will ask you for some pretty personal information like your first and last name, contact information (like a phone number or email address), your credit card number and a shipping and billing address. If these seem invasive to you, don’t be alarmed – this is all standard information. But be wary if you’re being asked for more than this: No website will ever ask for your SIN number, your mother’s maiden name, or any other sensitive information outside of the norm.

Buy from brands that you recognize

Buying from brand names that you’ve heard of is typically your safest bet to not get scammed. This is especially true for electronics and gadgets.

We get it — that knockoff VR headset comes at a fraction of the price of its branded counterpart, but those low-cost gadgets often aren’t worth it. At worst, they may contain spyware or malware to infiltrate your other devices. They may steal your personal information, download malicious software or hack your device once it’s connected. You may even be sent a dud that doesn’t turn on at all or doesn’t work as promised.

There’s no guarantee that these products are going to be cyber safe or adhere to typical cyber security rules, so it’s often safer not to buy them. But that being said, what may look like legitimate brand name products often end up on spoofed websites, so it’s important to stay vigilant and spot red flags. In order to help you secure some savings without the scams, you can:

Do some research the night before

If possible, try to figure what you’re looking to shop for the night before. You can take your time looking for legitimate e-commerce stores and bookmark those sites for quick and easy access when you’re shopping the next day. You’ll save time trying to find the right websites, and you’ll make less mistakes than if you’re in a rush the day of.

Read the reviews

Reading customer reviews can also help you make smart purchasing decisions but be wary if you’re seeing nothing but 5 stars. No product is ever perfect, so if you’re only seeing rave reviews, there’s a good chance it isn’t real. Spoofed sites, and even suspicious products will often have fake reviews to try and legitimize what they’re “selling”.

Conclusion

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great times to take advantage of a good deal online, but don’t let the excitement of a good sale cloud your judgement. Shop safely this year, and feel free to revel in the fact that you won’t have to wait in line for hours for the sales to start this year.

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