INDIANAPOLIS — Millions of Americans will shop for the holidays from their smart devices instead of a traditional store. But, this time of year opens opportunities for scammers to steal your money and your personal information.

“We’re seeing a lot of social media ads that are pushing people toward fake stores, fake websites again where they’re either promising a ridiculously low price on an item, something that just doesn’t exist,” Gary Brickhouse, Chief Information Security Officer at GuidePoint Security, said.

Here are four ways experts say consumers can best protect themselves from online scams:

  • Don’t click links in emails; go straight to the company’s website
  • Check reviews of sellers and websites before you purchase an item
  • If you do believe you entered personal information into a suspicious website, freeze your credit card accounts
  • Pay with credit card when possible

“Scammers love getting paid by a gift card or a wire transfer, and that’s because it’s easy, it’s fast, it’s guaranteed money,” Erin Witte, Director of Consumer Protection at the Consumer Federation of America, said.

To scout the best deals online, some companies offer browser extensions. These are essentially tools that take a manual job and make it automatic, such as scanning the internet for deals and coupons.

Experts say if a browser extension wants to monitor your online traffic or store personal information, those are red flags and you should continue researching other extensions.

“You can find plugins everywhere, but we want to look at ones from official locations like the Chrome web store or from like a Firefox browser add-on,” Brickhouse explained.

The FBI says the two most popular holiday scams are non-payment and non-delivery. In 2021, people lost $337 million to these scams.

If you fall victim to these crimes, you’re urged to contact either the Federal Trade Commission or the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

“They wouldn’t have access to that information if consumers didn’t call and tell them how much they lost,” Witte said.