MADISON, Wis. -
While you're shopping online for this year's holiday gifts you should be careful about what ads you're clicking on. Popup ads are commonly spotted on social media feeds but not all those ads are legitimate, according to the Wisconsin Department of Trade and Consumer Protection.
Barry Shuchter shops online at least once a week, but takes extra precaution before he hits purchase.
"All you have to do is click on something for it to already to be dangerous," he said.
Shuchter has a special software to detect phony ads. As a web developer he has learned just how easy it is to be hacked or fall for a scam.
"You don't have to do much besides clicking. That's enough to download stuff to your computer sometimes or register your name somewhere. It's a nightmare," Shuchter said.
It doesn't matter if you see an ad on Facebook, Instagram or other social media, it doesn't mean that they are trustworthy.
"Incredible deals that are really too good to be true. Those tend to be put out there and what is behind it is illegitimate," said Michelle Reinen, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Some sites will spoof legitimate big box stores and make similar websites, but there might be misspellings or an added word to the title.
"We ask consumers to take a minute to slow down. Process the information, because with the misspellings, adding just a single extra letter or just a key word, you're going to miss that information," Reinen said.
Reinen said before buying online you should confirm the site has real contact information. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. She also warns that shoppers should never buy directly from an ad. Instead, she said you should go directly to the site to purchase. Using a credit card, can also give you added protection if a site turns out to be a fake.
Reinen does not have specific numbers but said the number of online shopping scams increase during the holidays when people are doing the most shopping.
"As technology is more and more popular and in everyone's pocket as they walk around, we certainly see an increased amount and a higher volume (that) means more vulnerability to consumers as well," she said.
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