Tips on how to stay safe while shopping online this holiday season

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The holidays are just around the corner which means so is holiday shopping season. With a lot of people buying gifts online, it’s getting harder to know what’s real and what’s not.

The bad news: Scammers are getting more high-tech, making it harder for shoppers.

The good news: There are a couple of things you can do to make sure you’re protecting yourself and your money when shopping online, but they require a bit more work and research.

Use your credit card

First, when you buy something online use your credit card.

“If you determine shortly thereafter that you don’t want the product or you think that you’ve been scammed, or you didn’t get the product, you can contact your credit card company and reverse the charges,” said Betsy DeNardi with the Consumer Protection Division at the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. “You can usually try to dispute that and get your money back. If you use your debit card, it’s less likely that you’ll get your money back, and if you use gift cards that money is gone.”

DeNardi also says scammers are doing their homework, and there’s no foolproof way of knowing you’re getting the real thing when shopping on third-party sites like Amazon.

Compare products

“I know though that are very sophisticated counterfeiters out there, and so it is going to be difficult just by looking at the picture and description to make sure that it’s not a counterfeit product,” said DeNardi.

She recommends doing your due diligence and compare products from a third-party site to the original.

“You can go to that manufacturer’s website and look at the product and make sure that when you’re looking at the product on whatever website that you’re actually purchasing it from that it looks the same,” said DeNardi.

She also recommends reading the product description on those sites.

“Typically, if it is in more broken English that usually means that it is a counterfeit product rather than from a reputable business or from the actual business itself,” explained DeNardi.

Also, reading reviews from people who ordered and received the product helps a lot. DeNardi says sometimes they’re the best source of information.

Check if the item has been recalled

If you’re buying toys or things for infants or children, DeNardi says it’s important to check if a product has been recalled before buying from a third-party site.

“If you’re not sure about the safety of the product you can go to the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” explained DeNardi. “It’s a Federal agency and they have a website where you can get information about whether a product has been recalled, specifically toys, or things related to babies—cribs and things like that.”

DeNardi says the original business will usually take recalled items off their website but third-party sites don’t necessarily do that.

The best rule of thumb, DeNardi says, is usually to just buy the product from the business that makes it.

“If it is a product that you can purchase it from the business that makes the product, you should definitely try and purchase it from there,” she said. “You can ensure that it’s not a counterfeit rather than purchasing it from Amazon, or Craigslist or eBay or something like that.”

But ultimately, if you’re going to buy from a third-party, just make sure that you’re doing your research and paying with a credit card.

If you do buy something and believe you have been scammed, you can file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

For the form, click here. You can also call them at 1-800-382-5516.

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