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4 smart practices to avoid online shopping scams

With all that money moving around, bad actors will almost definitely want to get their hands on some. Some are clever, and even the most careful shoppers can fall prey to their tricks. But by following some basic tips and good security practices, you can make yourself a harder target and hopefully avoid giving unintended gifts to online fraudsters.

These days, your inbox is probably flooding with promotional messages, newsletters, and sales you “just cannot miss.” Some may offer spectacular deals, but you should be cautious instead of jumping in head-first, says Camille Stewart, global head of product security at Google.

“People should look to see if the message is sent from a public email domain,” she says. “Most of the brands sending promotional emails have a website and will send emails using their domain name. So you should be skeptical of promotional emails from a Yahoo or Hotmail address, for example.”

If the sender’s address or anything else in the email’s body is off—pixelated images, bad grammar or misspellings—report the message as spam and delete it immediately.

As a rule of thumb, don’t click on links within an email. Instead, open another tab on your browser, go directly to the store’s official website, and navigate your way to the deal or sale you’re interested in. Scammers often find legitimate promotional emails, copy them, and replace the links with ones that will steal your data or automatically install malware on your computer.

But we get it—sometimes we’re feeling lazy or retailers make it hard to find sales on their websites to tempt you with non-discounted products instead. If you absolutely need to click that link, try hovering over it with your cursor to ensure it matches where the ad or email claims it’ll take you, Stewart says.

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