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The holidays are the prime time for shopping and finding good deals but also the perfect opportunity for bad actors to scam customers.

Ahead of the holiday shopping, hundreds of apps and websites will be trying to steal personal data and credit card information, according to a new report from RiskIQ, a cybersecurity company.

Scammers create fake landing pages with realistic branding often offering a big amount of discount to attract customers, especially around big events and holidays, with the goal of collecting a customer's personal data. 

Before this year's Black Friday, a scam circulated on the messaging app WhatsApp that promised 99 percent discount off on Amazon.com having thousands of customers getting their credit card information stolen, which was only one of the many scams that circulated on the internet ahead of the popular shopping day. 

 

More people are using their phones instead of a computer to shop online and this year,  40 percent of the sales on Black Friday came via a smartphone, according to OuterBox.

Doing shopping on a smartphone may seem effective and simple but It's also putting the customer in a much higher risk of being scammed.

"On a smartphone, compared to on a computer, it’s much harder to spot a scam since mobile browsers have a much shorter address field and therefore may not see the full URL," the study reads.

How to avoid being scammed

shopping scammers

Only shop at websites you trust. “If a random website is offering an 80%-off deal on the toy of the season, there’s a good chance they’re just looking to take your credit card information,” the report reads. To avoid visiting bad websites, you should look for a “https” in a retailer’s website, rather than “http”.  The ‘s’ stands for secure and means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi when shopping online. When using public Wi-Fi, anyone with computer acumen can view what you are browsing and steal your personal information. That’s why you should avoid public, unsecured networks in places like coffee shops.

Use a credit card instead of a debit card. It's always better to use a credit card when shopping online since the money isn’t taken directly out of a checking account like it would with a debit card.

Sign up for free scam alerts. Consider signing up for free scam alerts from the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/scams, which tracks spear-phishing scams, charity fraud, credit report scams and more.

Scammers are creative, in a criminal sense. They see holidays as particular times of opportunity and that’s why you need to be extra careful.