How to avoid getting scammed this holiday shopping season

Black Friday is notoriously one of the busiest shopping days of the year, which means scammers will be right there trying to get your money.

Whether you're hitting the stores to shop, or hitting up online deals, watch out for fakes, especially when it comes to apps.

"If you're going to download an app, don't just look in the app store, google it separately from the app," technology expert Chandra Steele with PCMag said.

Research is key, and you need to read the reviews. One report found that one in 25 Black Friday apps is a scam, designed to steal personal information or download malware onto the user's phone or laptop.

Steele suggests you review privacy policies to see what information will be collected.

"It takes a long time sometimes for somebody to realize that they've clicked on something that's not a real app and that it's removing money from their bank account," she warned.

Another place to watch out for fakes is on social media. You'll see posts advertising gifts, such as clothes, jewelry, and some of the most wanted items this holiday, but if you click 'buy' before you research, you could lose your money and never get that gift.

"Look up the retailer. Also visit the retailer site directly on your own, instead of clicking from email, a text message, Facebook, Instagram because those can all just be links that are leading to scams instead of to the actual retailers," Steele said.

One of the biggest scams that hit every holiday is fake shipping alerts. With all the online shopping, scammers send an email or text claiming a package is delayed or on its way.

If there's a link, don't click it!

"Say you get it coming from FedEx or DHL. Go directly to those sites and then enter in the tracking information instead of clicking from an email because it might not be from a legitimate source," Steele said.

Gift cards are always one of the most popular things to give. Before you buy, make sure you know if there is an expiration date, and also consider the history of the retailer. If you buy a gift card to a place that goes out of business, you're typically out your money.
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