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How to Avoid Online Shopping Scams

Adam Berry/Getty Images News

The holiday shopping season is upon us and I don’t like going to crowded stores with rude associates and empty shelves. I like staying inside where it’s warm and shopping online. Here are a few online shopping scams to watch out for and how to avoid them.

Gift Cards and Coupons

When you buy something online from a reputable site, you get an email confirmation. That’s normal and not scammy. What is not normal and what we have to watch out for is emails from different companies claiming to be affiliated with stores you shop at offering free coupons and free gift cards. They get their info from you using a search engine. The search engine plants a “cookie” that’s attached to your IP address and it can trace your email. Then their scam is to send you an email and get you to click the link, enter your personal information and then steal your identity and go nuts. Scammers will also use stolen credit cards to fraudulently buy gift cards and then resell them online to unsuspecting shoppers like us.  I’m a bargain hunter just like the next shopper, but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Secret Shopper Offers

You may get an email offer to become a secret shopper in your area and it sounds like a great idea, but it’s a total scam. They send you a check and tell you to deposit the check, go do the shopping, send them a report of what you found and whatever money you don’t spend, just send back. Sounds like fun, but it’s a scam. The bank may tell you that the money is there and available, but by the time you’ve done the shopping and sent the money back, your bank realizes the check was forged and now you’re on the hook for everything and your identity has been stolen with the rest of your money.


I used to think that Christmas or holiday e-cards were so incredibly sweet, now when I get them, I delete them. Why? Because scammers like to send e-cards with videos and when you click, it downloads malware (or malicious software) to your computer. That malware could contain a virus or trojan worm that can completely ruin your computer at the very least. Malware can also go through all of your files and steal your sensitive personal information, go through your address list and contacts and hack and infect your friends with malware, too. This one is a little harder to detect because the e-card can come from someone you know, so if someone sends you an e-card out of the blue, contact them and ask if they sent it. If they say no, delete it immediately.

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