Guide: Tips to spot fake shopping sites and avoid being scammed

If you're getting ready to do some shopping - be aware of online shopping scams. 
Scammers create slick-looking websites pretending to sell items on high demand. To lure you onto the sites, scammers pay for ads on Facebook, Google and other websites.
The best way to not get scammed when shopping online is to be aware of the tactics and know what to look for. Here are some tips:

1. RESEARCH THE SITE

If you’re on a website you’ve never used before, do an online search of the company's name along with the words “scam” or “review.” Check the site’s social media pages for any complaints from customers. And try the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker, which lets you search company names and read any complaints. Another thing you should do: Read the site's “About Us” page. Misspellings or sentences that don’t make sense are red flags.

2. BE WARY OF ONLINE ADS

Place extra scrutiny on sites you find through social media ads, which are a common way to lure people in. Sometimes the ads are based on products you've been searching for online. For example, if you’ve been looking for a certain toy, scammers can buy ads to get their site on your Facebook timeline with a picture of the toy you've been wanting to buy.

3. BE SUSPICIOUS OF HARD-TO-FIND PRODUCTS

Another way shoppers get tricked is by sites that falsely say they have products in stock that are sold out almost everywhere else.

4. DON’T FALL FOR PRICE

If the price is too good to be true, it probably is, says Better Business Bureau spokeswoman Katherine Hutt. Scammers offer lower prices on hot products knowing that shoppers will find them hard to resist.

5. CHECK SECURITY SETTINGS

While not a guarantee, if the site is secure, its web address should start with https:// and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page. Be sure to locate and review the Security Policy on the site and understand how they will be protecting your information – do they use encryption?

6. REVIEW THE DEAILS

When shopping online, be sure to take your time and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for the return policy; although many online orders can be returned for a full refund, others have restocking fees. Be wary of additional hidden fees that may not be transparently disclosed. Some items cannot be returned; know before you buy.

7. SHOP WITH A CREDIT CARD

In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protections; it’s easier to dispute charges that you didn’t approve or to get money back if there is a problem. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections. If a seller requires payment through wire transfer or pre-paid gifts cards only, that’s a huge red flag to just walk away. Need to dispute a credit card charge? Here's how.

8. SAVE RECEIPTS OR CONFIRMATION EMAILS

If something goes wrong, make sure you have your receipts and order emails as these will help you get your money back from the seller or file a dispute with your credit card company, the Federal Trade Commission says.

9. IF YOU ARE SCAMMED

Call your credit card company to dispute the charges and try to get a refund. You can also report the site on the Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission websites, which could help others from being scammed.