We're now well into the hunt for holiday gifts, and it's easy to let your guard down while shopping online.
Scammers know online shoppers are looking for deals during the holiday season. And they know shoppers are usually in a rush, which means we make not take the time to thoroughly check out a web retailer.
Brooke Galvin says she shops online during her lunch breaks for "shoes, clothing, belts, and accessories for relatives." But the more sites you shop at, the easier it is to stumble on a questionable retailer.
Beware counterfeit name brands online
Shady websites are happy to show ads for fake designer handbags, counterfeit Nikes, and imitation Ugg boots — products that may start falling apart in January.
That discount NBA or NFL jersey, that you found through a Facebook ad? There is a good chance it is a cheap copy.
Sandra Guile of the Better Business Bureausays it's important to research who you are buying from, and most importantly, find out if they have a real address and storefront in the United States.
"Investigate that retailer first," Guile said. "Do they have a brick and mortar address, are they simply a website?"
The problem with many shady websites is that there is no way to dispute a no-show order or return an obvious fake.
How do you stumble on them? Typically, shoppers find them through Facebook ads or Google searches for terms such as "cheap handbags" or "discount Nikes."
How to protect yourself
The easiest way to make sure you won't end up with a counterfeit is to shop the manufacturer's website — like Nike.com — or shop at well-known retail sites, like Dick's Sporting Goods, Macy's, Kohl's, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc.
Amazon policies its sites for counterfeits, and for shady retailers, but it doesn't always catch new retailers that pop up every day. Make sure the third party Amazon retailer you are ordering from has a physical address, good reviews, and has been selling for more than a week or two.
Also, the BBB advises shoppers to look for the letters "https" in the web address — most time, that means you're on a secure site, backed up by Visa and Mastercard.
Bottom line: If it is not a well-known retailer, check the site for reviews, and find where they are located before you give your credit card.
Be careful of any site based in China this time of year: Even if they are legitimate, you may not receive your package until well into January — fhat way, you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)
For more consumer news and money saving advice, go to www.dontwasteyourmoney.com