Ways to stay safe while shopping online this holiday season

Are you planning to avoid the crowds this holiday season by doing all of your shopping online? That idea can come with its own stress if you're not careful.

While the Internet is a great place to find good deals on gifts, it's also a place where scammers can try to take advantage of you.

The Better Business Bureau said to stay safe while shopping online, first make sure your computer's security software is up to date to protect you from viruses and spyware.

Be sure to shop trustworthy sites.

The feds just shut down 150 websites for selling counterfeit goods to customers who didn't know.

Sue McConnell, with the Better Business Bureau, said, "It may look very close to the real thing, but the quality won't be there, the warranty won't be there."

When looking for a great buy, keep in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Also, if the seller requires you to pay through money gram or wire transfer, don't! Once that money's gone, it's gone.

Opt for using your credit card for online purchases because if what you bought never arrives, you can dispute the charges.

"If you paid for that item by check or just with a debit that money's gone and you might never see it again," McConnell warned.

Check the site's privacy policies, and make sure your transactions are secure by looking for the "s" after http in the Web address and the lock symbol before paying.

And be extra leery of any unexpected emails during the holidays.

McConnell said, "You might get an email saying that your package is gong to arrive in 2 or 3 days and you might think ‘oh someone is sending me a nice gift.'"

But instead, that email could send you to a website meant to steal your personal information.

The Better Business Bureau also said to keep documentation of any orders you make, and check your credit card often for any suspicious activity.

And take a close look at the shipping offers. Make sure that gift will arrive by Christmas.

For a complete list of online shopping safety tips from the Better Business Bureau, check out http://www.bbb.org/us/article/bbb-offers-10-tips-for-safe-online-shopping-30844.

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