HOUSTON (FOX26) - In the age of social media, there seems to be no shortage of people looking to take your money. As the 2016 holiday shopping season arrives, the FBI shared several tips to avoid getting tricked online.
Search and compare the model number against similar products before you buy, particularly with electronics.
"Don't fall for these ads or these deals that are too good to be true, because they probably are," says Christina Garza, a public affairs specialist with the FBI.
While Garza recommends sticking to sellers you know well, all deals deserve some research. For example, a discounted TV may be an older model, or a model specifically manufactured with lower grade equipment, or fewer features, for the purpose of being sold as a holiday special. Compare the sale model against similar products to see if it suits your standards.
Beware the miracle deals (our reporter shares her horror story.)
"Often times you purchase an item you saw in a picture and what you end up getting is nothing like what you ordered," warned Garza.
FOX26 reporter Kaitlin Monte shared her personal example of a too-good fashion deal. Monte wore a designer gown to an event, then later purchased the super-cheap version on a site called The Celebrity Dresses to see how it compared.
In the side-by-side photos, it can be seen how the material, fit, and manufacturing were not comparable. The website where the knock-off was purchased says in small print on the home page that their gowns are "celebrity inspired." Though the site used the designer and celebrity images of gowns, they did not show a picture of the actual product being purchased.
To see Kaitlin’s entire gown story, click here.
Before shopping with a new retailer, look up reviews of that seller and comments from past customers.
Websites like Amazon allow users to upload photos of themselves with the product purchased, which can validate the quality of an item you feel is too well priced to be the real deal.
Beware the scam emails.
"Anything that asks for your personal information, such as social security number...never give out that information," reminds Garza, "especially if it's unsolicited email."
To see if an email link is legitimate, hover over the link to see a preview of the web address where it will take you. If the web address does not match a reputable website you know, or if you never requested that email be sent to you, call the company before clicking.
Look for the lock before submitting your online shopping cart.
“As you do your online holiday shopping, we want you to be very careful about who you are buying from,” warns Garza, pointing out that some unfamiliar sites may be scams to steal your information.
When in your shopping cart, or entering any personal information, you should see a tiny icon next to where you typed in the website address. Or, look for the web address to start with the letters "HTTPS" rather than "HTTP." Both the lock and the "HTTPS" mean the site is securely encrypted when you submit your data.
Know a great online shopping safety tip? Share it with reporter Kaitlin Monte on her Facebook page: facebook.com/kaitlinmonte