‘Tis the season to be vigilant!

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season may cause you to ignore warning signals that you’re about to be scammed, so stay alert as you shop, browse or even exchange greeting cards online. Here are a few tips for a safe experience online.

Don’t get phished. Be on guard for email messages that look like they come from popular websites or e-stores. Cybercriminals often impersonate companies typically involved in ecommerce, since they know you expect to get legitimate emails from these sources. Pay special attention to email messages appearing to come from your favorite e-stores (e.g., Amazon, Ebay) or their transportation partners (e.g., USPS, UPS, FedEx).

Don’t get Smished. Do not respond if you receive a Short Message Service (SMS) or text message on your phone requesting your bank account or credit card information in order to claim a gift card. These are scams, and no legitimate company will ask you to send sensitive information via text messages or emails.

Beware of fake charities. Before you donate, research the charity and make sure it’s legitimate. Visit Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau to evaluate a charity’s authenticity.

Avoid holiday ticket scams. If you get an email promising a chance to win free tickets to the new Star Wars movie in exchange for completing a survey, do not click on any of its links—it’s a scam, not a raffle.

Look out for phony online stores. Cybercriminals set up Web storefronts to look like those of well-known brands offering drastically discounted rates. When you buy online from these e-stores, you run the risk of losing your money and your personal data, and not receiving the item you purchased. Make sure you can identify an e-store’s legitimate mailing address and phone number as well as its return policy. If the site looks like a replica (www.store-amazon.com) of a well-known site (http://www.amazon.com) you’ve visited before, check the site’s URL. Cybercrooks may create bogus Web addresses to look like the URL of a real site.

Value your personal information as much as you do your money. Think about the type of information that you’ve been asked to enter online in order to place an order or make a payment and question if it is necessary to complete your transaction. A vendor, for example, does not need your Social Security number to process your payment.

Be vigilant and enjoy shopping online this holiday season!