Tips for keeping your money safe while shopping online this holiday season

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- With more and more people ditching the traditional holiday shopping experience for the comforts of their own homes, industry experts say it is more important now than ever to make sure you're on alert for scammers looking to take advantage of the online rush.

"In 2020, we saw a record number of fraudulent websites that all really started with the pandemic," explained Susan Bach with Wisconsin's Better Business Bureau. "We expect that trend to continue."

Bach says this is the time of year when scammers thrive, looking to take advantage of people hoping to purchase last-minute holiday gifts for family and friends online.

"Stick with those tried and true websites that you've used before, that you know to be legitimate," Bach recommended. "If for some reason they're out of stock or you find a better price elsewhere, that's when you're going to want to take extra precautions to make sure that you are shopping on a reputable site."

Those precautions can include doing research on any website that you're not familiar with to make sure that the business is legitimate. This may include looking up company reviews online or visiting the Better Business Bureau's website to see of the business or charity where you are looking to spend money is accredited by the BBB. Bach says the form of payment you use is also important.

"Scammers love to use those untraditional forms of payment because they're irreversible," explained Bach, referring to popular peer payment apps like Venmo or Cash App. "Use a credit card. They offer the most protections if a gift doesn't arrive or if it arrives not as advertised. You can always dispute a charge on your credit card. They offer more protections than your debit card."

Bach says one of the most popular scams that the BBB is tracking this year are puppy scams. CBS 58's Bill Walsh covered that trend in-depth earlier this year. That story can be viewed here.

For those looking to see if a business is accredited by the BBB, visit its website here.

For those looking to see if a fundraiser or foundation meets the BBB's standards, click here

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