Online shoppers beware -- web predators are on the prowl this holiday season, looking for your credit card and personal information.
So how can you protect yourself?
On "The Early Show" Thursday, Regina Lewis, AOL consumer adviser, discussed the tips below to help you stay safe online and recognize some sneaky scams cropping up online during the holiday shopping season.
Avoid Phishing Scams such as "Phony Purchase Confirmations":
Expect a rise in "phishing scams" this time of year targeted at online shoppers. One of the most prevalent online shopping scams doesn't happen during the purchase; it appears to come on the backend of things by way of a fake purchase confirmation or order receipt, asking people to login to their Amazon, Paypal, eBay, etc. account to confirm payment information an order that they never placed. It's easy to fall for this one if you are new to online shopping or you've been doing a lot of it lately. People panic, click on the link and enter their credit card information on a fake site - only to give into the scammer.
• Go to the site directly & check "order status."
• When in doubt, call.
Latest Twist on Phishing = Smishing Scams
"Smishing" is the latest twist - instead of an e-mail, you get a text message. You're told to call a toll-free number, which is answered by a bogus automated voice-response system that tries to fool you into providing your account number and password.
• Google the number to make sure it's legit
• Call the number on back of your credit card
The holidays have historically been a prime time for charity scams since it's a traditional time for giving. Common ploys include phone calls and spam e-mails asking you to donate to veterans' charities, children's causes and relief funds for the latest catastrophe.
• Go directly to charity site or Network For Good.org
• At time of donation, site URL should read "https"
Don't Fall for Fake Coupon Sites:
With the rising popularity of online coupon code sites, it's easy to get caught up trying to get the discount code, but you should never have to give up excessive personal information in the process. If you do, you could be setting yourself up to become a victim of identity theft.
• Don't pay for codes
• Look for legitimate codes on sites like CouponCabin.com.