Christmas shopping, proceed with caution

With Christmas approaching, online retailers are readying for what has become known as “cyber Monday”, the busiest internet shopping day of the year that commonly falls on the first Monday of December. Despite the recession many online retailers are expecting a very busy season. For example, Amazon is forecasting that sales will be 21% to 36% higher than last year and it has hired several hundred extra workers for the Christmas period. South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs spokesperson Maria Audas says if you’re shopping online make sure you proceed with caution so you want compromise your valuable personal information like your credit card or bank account numbers.
“Obviously there are new stores out there, there are new websites and the number one thing you can do to protect yourself is not to click on links to websites. Go ahead and type in the website in the browser and that is going to almost assure that you’re getting to the right site. When itcomes time to make payment always look for that ” H-T-T-P-S”  in your browser. That “S” indicates a secure site and you should also have a padlock icon at the top of your screen.”
 Audas says when you shop online, yu may want to stick with the online retailers you have shopped with in the past. If you find a new site that you may want to business with, check them out thoroughly because there are scammers prowling on the Internet. “There are a lot  of scammers that will actually pay for advertisements that can actually direct you to another website. Once you get on that other website the method of payment is not secure and you are giving your money to a scammer. You could also be releasing some harmful viruses into your computer. Always remember to type into the browser the website you want to go to.
 Audas says never click on links that you are not sure about and don’t open e-mails from unknown sources because you may be opening the door for those who would steal you identity and valuable private information.
Audas says gift cards continue to grow in popularity as an acceptable way to spread holiday cheer to those “hard to please” persons on your list. Audas says to be safe only purchase gift cards that are kept securely behind the counter. “Scammers like to go and take the numbers off the back of gift cards, wait for a few days until it is purchased, and then dial in and drain that account before the consumer is aware of what has happened. In order to protect yourself from those type of gift card scams, make sure you purchase a gift card for behind the register.”
Audas says before you purchase a gift card, make sure you examine the fine print.”Make sure you read carefully the fine print to identify if there are any expiration dates or fees. The last thing you want to do is give a gift card to someone and have it expire before they have a chance to use it.”
Audas says many persons often find out after the purchase that many gift cards actually come with hidden fees that lessens the purchasing power of the card. Audas says new laws go into effect next year that will greatly help consumers. “Expiration dates for gift cards are going to be no less that five years, and there is going to be a reduction in the amount of fees a company can charge for inactivity or for whatever purpose on a gift card.”