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Tips to shopping safely this holiday season

To reduce the risk of getting scammed, buyers need to research the websites they want to buy from.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Better Business Bureau of Iowa is encouraging online shoppers to be safe so they don't become a victim to a scam this holiday season. 

Laura Chavez, the director of operations for BBB Iowa, said because of supply chain issues more people might start shopping online earlier, but also might not be aware of the dangers they face. 

"Online scams account for a third of all of the scams that get reported to the BBB," Chavez said. 

She noted lots of Iowans do get targeted by online scams, and since 2017, online scams have been increasing according to BBB's Scam Tracker Risk Report

According to that report, for people ages 18-54, online scams were riskiest in 2020. 

To reduce the risk of getting scammed, buyers need to research the websites they want to buy from.

This includes Googling whether a site is trustworthy, realizing if a deal seems too good to be true and checking on a website's creation date and if the website has any misspellings. 

When shopping online, one thing to look out for is a padlock to the left of the URL.

RELATED: 2021 holiday shopping guide for central Iowa

RELATED: How supply chain shortages could impact your holiday shopping

"You can tell if a site is owned by who they say they are ... by the little padlock up in the corner by the little 'www,'" said Doug Jacobson, a  professor of computer and electrical engineering at Iowa State Universitty. "That's how you know that A, it's a legitimate website."

The BBB also said if a person shops on social media, be careful, especially if that seller wants payments through Venmo or Cash App, because this could lead to a scam. 

"Sometimes they will take …your personally identifiable information and use that to steal your identity and then they can have access to your bank accounts and other records," Chavez said.

If a person is leery about trying new sites to buy from, use a credit card. If the site turns out to be a scam, there is a possibility to get your money back as opposed to a debit card.

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