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Cyber Monday holiday shopping scams, what to look for

Security experts say more than 350,000 fake retail websites are on the internet right now trying to scam shoppers out of their money. Here's what to look for.

MINNEAPOLIS — Cyber Monday is big business.

Experts predict a record-breaking $9.4 billion will be spent online this Cyber Monday.

If that sounds like a lot, you're right.

That’s a 15% increase over last year.

So, with all those great deals, how do you know which ones are legit?

Especially the ones that pop up in your social media feeds?

According to the IT security company Check Point, there are more than 350,000 fake retail websites on the internet that are made to look like real companies.

Check Point’s new report highlighted an especially deceptive fake website for “Ray Ban” sunglasses that could even fool some experts.

And to get you to the website scammers create fake advertising campaigns.

IT company ZeroFox found more than 61,000 fake ad campaigns in November alone.

Most of these campaigns used email marketing and social media ads to lure consumers to their fake websites.

"It's definitely a hot time for scammers," Minnesota Better Business Bureau spokesperson Bess Ellenson says.

Holiday shopping scams are by far the common type of scam the BBB sees in a given year.

Ellenson says spotting a fake website starts right at the top, with the web address you type in.

“If a link, coupon, or ad takes you to a website and there’s a spelling error or grammar error, or something isn’t quite right, you might want to double think what you’re doing,” Ellenson says.

The BBB says scammers will often change just one letter of the real website address to try and trick you.

RELATED: How you can benefit from a shorter shopping calendar on Cyber Monday

They might write down something like Amaz0n (with a zero instead of the letter “O”) or they might add additional words such as “shop.Amazon.com” or “buy.Amazon.com.”

Experts say you can avoid these fake websites by not clicking on ads or coupons that are sent to your email inbox or your social media pages.

Instead, they recommend searching for the company yourself so you can find their official website.

That way you will get the same deals and you won’t have to worry about going onto the wrong website.

The BBB also recommends using Paypal or a credit card to pay for your online purchases.

Both payment options make it easy to file a claim and get your money back.

Third-party sites like Paypal also offer a buffer between you and the website that protects your financial information.

For more holiday shopping tips click here.

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