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How to Spot Fake Black Friday and Cyber Monday Ads

While shoppers are on the look out for deals this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, they should also stay vigilant about scammers on the look out for their personal information. The designated shopping days present an invitation for identity thieves to strike with fake ads and phony e-mails used as click bait to access consumers’ personal data. Here’s what to keep an eye out for as you scour discounts this holiday shopping season.

1. Decipher When Coupons Aren’t Real

Identity thieves often send fake coupons via email as a way to lure shoppers to websites. Once a shopper is sent to the website, they are prompted for their credit card information or other personal data. Buyer beware: this is usually a phishing scheme.

When shoppers receive these emails, they should refrain from downloading any attachments, as they may contain viruses. Consumers shouldn’t click on any links inside the emails either.

Shoppers should also be mindful of coupons that are posted by others on social media sites like Facebook. Even though a friend might have shared a coupon on a social network, it does not mean it is valid.

If a consumer is having a hard time deciphering whether an emailed or shared coupon is real, he or she can visit the official retail store's website to see if the same deals are featured. Consumers should also check the sender’s email address to see if it the website is legitimate. It’s also not a bad idea to call the retail store directly (with the number taken from the retailer’s official website) and ask a customer service representative to confirm the deal.

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2. Don’t Miss the Red Flags of ‘Near Miss Websites’

The Better Business Bureau warns of “near miss websites,” which are sites designed to mimic legit merchants but include subtle differences. For example, there may be a site called BesstBuy.com, rather than the official BestBuy.com. These sites are designed by scammers who believe that while shoppers rush to get the best deals, they will overlook the minor differences and submit their credit card information.

Don’t fall victim to this scheme and take your time while you shop. Double-check that the sites you are shopping at are legitimate, especially before entering any personal information.

3. Be Leery of Deals That Are Too Good to Be True

Deals that seem too good to be true often are. Scammers feed on the discount hungry during this time of the year by advertising cheap knock-offs on eBay postings, Craigslist ads and the like. They use this as click bait to steal a consumer’s personal info.

When a product is steeply discounted, check the legitimacy of the person selling the item. Research the merchant and try running the name through the Better Business Bureau’s business search. Also trust your instincts. If you don’t feel at ease, there’s often a reason why. Walk away from the deal and look elsewhere.

4. Don’t Fall for Fake Gift Card Offers

Scammers promote fake gift cards through social media sites to lure you into submitting personal information. Scams can range from free gift cards if you sign up for a “fan page” or “like” a page on Facebook to gift cards that cost, say, $20 but are worth $50.

Always double-check these gift card offers and when in doubt, call the retailer’s official number to check if they are real.

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