CYBER MONDAY: Avoid online holiday shopping scams

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – Here is a Consumer First Alert ahead of Cyber Monday. While you're looking for the best online deals, cyber criminals are trying to trick you with fake discounts, websites, and gift cards.

Cyber Monday is one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. Consumer experts say it is important to make sure you're protecting your personal information. Scammers like to create lookalike websites even using the logos and brand name products.

The Better Business Bureau says to watch for false advertising and phony websites. A good tip is to double check the web address in your browser. Check spelling and contact information. Also, shop with sellers you trust on secure websites. Read reviews for both sellers and the product.

Keep your antivirus software up to date. Don't shop on public Wi-Fi. It's best to use your credit card when you're shopping online, that way if any questionable charges turn up later, or your package doesn't show up, you have more protection than using a debit card.

You should also keep in mind that the best deal may not be a real deal. If you find a price on a brand name item that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

It's a rush to make sure you get that Cyber Monday deal, but taking that extra time to double check can save you a headache later on.

Also, this is a prime time for fake emails and text messages.

Here's what you need to know:

Wisconsin Consumer Protection says if you get an unexpected phone call, email, or text message claiming you won a gift card to a major retailer, hang up or delete the message.

Scammers even create fake websites with bogus free gift card offers to trick you into giving your personal information. Another scam is trying to get you to click on a link, responding to a survey, opening up the risk of malware getting onto your computer or phone. Remember, if you're asked to pay with a gift card, that's a scam.

Wisconsin law enforcement and Consumer Protection say gift cards are the number one method of payment for impostor scams. It cost people in the state $40 million last year.

You might wonder ‘why do these scammers use gift cards?’ The answer is they can remain anonymous and once you give up those numbers on the back of the card that money is gone, the transaction is very difficult to reverse.

Officials say if you paid a scammer with a gift card report it as soon as possible to the card company.