COVID pandemic means record online holiday shopping, but scams are on the rise

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The coronavirus pandemic is making this a cyber-shopping holiday season, and it's estimated by Nerd Wallet than seven in 10 will do ALL their shopping online.

That also means, however, that now more than ever, scammers are waiting for you.

Online retailers have started Black Friday deals already, but there are red flags to keep an eye out for.

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It's estimated that a record $190 billion will be spent online by the end of the year, and where's their money, scammers will follow.

First, if someone on Facebook tags you to join a "Secret Sister" gift exchange - beware. The idea is you send a small gift to someone, who you may or may not know, above you on the list. Then, dozens of others on the list send you a gift.

The problem is, it's basically a pyramid scheme masquerading as holiday cheer.

Also, beware of fake websites. Check the URL, watch for bad grammar or spelling mistakes, and search for online reviews.

One of these fake websites might belong to a scammer trying to get you to wire thousands in a fake puppy scam. During the age of COVID-19, this is one ripoff on the rise.

The very simply rule is don't send money to strangers. Instead, work with a local shelter.

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Some big takeaways are to first be wary of websites showing deals with "too good to be true" prices.

And before you hand over your credit card number to a retailer you don't know, check out their reviews and do some research. And make sure they're a secure website that has "https" instead of "http" at the front of their web address.

Finally, use a credit card over a debit card or a cash app like Venmo. Credit cards offer more protections and recourse if there's fraud.

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