Online Security Straight Talk: Be careful while shopping over the holidays The Canton Regional and Greater West Virginia Better Business Bureau offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices. The concern: It's the most wonderful time of the year, but your Better Business Bureau is reminding consumers that scammers don't take a break for the holidays. In fact, the holiday season is ideal for them while shoppers are too distracted to notice the warning signs of a potential scam. Common holiday scams and tips to avoid: 1. Online shopping scams: Everyone loves a great deal, but some websites offer prices that are too good to be true. BBB advice: When shopping online, if you’re on sites you’re not familiar with, watch for look-alike websites with URLs that use the names of well-known brands along with extra words. Confirm the company has a physical address and telephone number. Any pages where you enter personal or financial information should have https:// at the beginning of the address or URL. Check out the websites BBB Business Reviews at www.bbb.org or call 800-362-0494. 2. Online ads for hot toys and gadgets: When stores sell out, you may find the items online at sites like Craigslist or eBay, but for a much steeper price. Some sellers will take your money and run. BBB Advice: If you shop on Craigslist or other classified sites, look for local sellers and conduct transactions in person. Never wire money as payment. If you’re shopping on auctions like eBay, research sellers extensively and don’t buy if the deal sounds too good to be true. 3. Identity theft at stores: While you’re focused on getting those deals, identity thieves are watching for opportunities to steal your wallet or your debit or credit card numbers. BBB Advice: Stay alert. Know where your credit and debit cards are at all times and cover the keypad when entering your pin number. If the merchant can process cards using an embedded chip, use that rather than swiping the magnetic strip. Make sure you put your card back in your wallet after each purchase. 4. Phony charitable pleas: The holidays are a time of giving, and that creates an opportunity for scammers to solicit their own donations with fake charity solicitations in email, on social media sites, and even by text. BBB Advice: Always research charities at BBB’s give.org before donating.