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ConsumerWatch: Simple Steps To Protecting Yourself From Cyber Monday Scammers

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(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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(KPIX 5) – Cyber Monday is the biggest online shopping day of the year; and with so much money changing hands on one day, it’s Christmas-come-early for online scammers.

But the California Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (CALPIRG) has issued instructions to help consumers avoid scams as well as tips on how to save money at legitimate retailers.

CALPIRG suggests a few ways to save money even at trusted online shopping sites. CALPIRG’s primary warning is to avoid online tracking. Some retail sites use adjusted pricing based on the habits of the shopper such that the exact same item may be priced differently for two different consumers.

“By using tracking cookies placed through internet browsers, online retailers can learn about an individual consumer’s preferences, shopping habits and price sensitivities in order to ‘tailor’ prices that meet their maximum price range,” reads the report from CALPIRG.

To avoid these price adjustments, or what CALPIRG calls “dynamic pricing,” consumers should clear their browser’s cookies before beginning to online shop and should double check attractive offers using other internet browsers.

When shopping online, CALPIRG also discourages consumers from paying with debit cards, check cards or ATM cards as they allow thieves to more easily extract personal bank account information from the victim. It is suggested that shoppers use credit cards instead because of the Fair Credit Billing Act.

CALPIRG says the act “gives consumers shopping with their credit cards the right to dispute charges, withhold payments when contesting charges, and limits consumers’ liability to a maximum of $50.”

CALPIRG also offers wisdom for consumers looking to avoid some of the many schemes encountered on Cyber Monday.

CALPIRG suggests shopping at trusted retail sites, places the consumer has previously shopped and had good experiences. If the consumer does shop somewhere new, they should make sure to read reviews at Better Business Bureau Online, Verisign or TRUSTe to make sure the target sites are certified.

Even when using the most popular search engines, shoppers can fall victim scams. Thieves can create fraudulent anti-virus programs that purport to protect against viruses, but in reality the program itself is a virus that can steal information from the victim’s computer. Such viruses can be triggered by common Black Friday searches.

Shoppers should beware of deals that look too-good-to-be-true especially those received via email. Email attachments sent from a mysterious source should never be opened and even well-known sites that require providing personal information should be avoided when sent through email.

If asked to create an account when purchasing online, consumers should use passwords previously unused to protect other accounts like email and banking.

Finally, HTTPS indicates you are shopping at a secure site, so look before you enter your card information and never make a purchase without first checking for security.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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