This is the season for online shopping and online shopping scams. The Better Business Bureau just posted its 12 scams of Christmas that frequently cost consumers.

Still, online shopping is not inherently a bad thing. The internet allows consumers to window shop, research products, and compare prices. The dangerous part of online shopping is in the transactions.

How people pay for things they find online at popular retailers, social media ads, and online classifieds such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace is how the bad guys get their money.

Some online payment options are safer than others.

The very first thing that should concern anyone is the use of a debit card to shop online.

Debit cards are a direct link to your bank account and offer no fraud protection. If you give someone your debit card number and PIN code, they can take more than you bargained for.

I’d even go so far as to say you shouldn’t use a debit card for anything online or in person.

Even with today’s debit card chip protection, it is still possible for bad guys to skim debit card information.

Skimmers are often found on gas pumps, in-store checkout counters and even on ATM’s, and it’s not easy detecting a skimmer, especially if you’re in a bit of a hurry.

At an ATM, it’s a good idea to grasp the place where you insert your card and give it a small tug. If it’s loose, don’t use that machine.

Cash sharing apps such as Venmo, Cash, and Zelle are being used by crooks selling items on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

These apps are popular because it makes it easy for people to split checks at restaurants and pay one another for small purchases and shares. They also offer little to no fraud protection.

The Cash app and Venmo are tied to bank accounts but can also be tied to a credit card account. The Zelle app is backed by hundreds of banks and offers no fraud protection. Transactions are immediate and once the cash transfer is complete, your money is taken out of your account. If you authorized the purchase, you have no recourse, and the bank will not be able to help.

Zelle states on its website that it should only be used between two people who know each other personally.

If you do purchase something from someone on Craigslist, insist that you meet in person in a public place.

That is no guarantee that something could go wrong though. Many police stations have dedicated parking spaces for Craigslist and social media transactions.

Beware of too-good-to-be-true offers on social media. If you run across an ad anywhere online for one of this year’s popular toys at a huge bargain, it’s probably a scam.

Nintendo Switch OLED gaming systems are almost impossible to find in reputable online retailer websites.

Deeply discounted prices on popular toys and gaming systems are quite possibly counterfeit or fake.

Before buying from a company you see advertising on Facebook or other social platforms, Google the company name to see if it has a web presence.

Beware of ads that push you to act now on a limited offer. You may even see an ad with a countdown that says the bargain will only last for a few more minutes. Some shady companies also place a ticker or countdown showing only a few of the items are still available in hopes you’ll be pressured to hit the buy now button and hand over your credit card information.

You should also remember that scammers are targeting younger people now that they’ve learned young people in their 20’s and 30’s are more susceptible to online scams than people in their 50’s and up.

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