DETROIT (WWJ) — With Cyber Monday approaching, officials are urging consumers to educate themselves to prevent fraud.

U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said that Cyber Monday — the year’s busiest online shopping day which occurs following the Thanksgiving weekend — brings with it the risk of fraud. Consumers sometimes lose their money, receive counterfeit merchandise or become victims of credit card fraud.

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“Like all technology, online shopping offers benefits and risks,” McQuade said. “Online shopping offers convenience and information for comparison shopping, but consumers should do their homework before sharing credit card information online.”

“It’s especially critical around the holiday shopping season that consumers act as the first line of defense to protect themselves from losing their hard-earned money by being ripped off,” ICE Special Agent in Charge Miller said.

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Miller said there are three basic principles consumers should consider to avoid being victims of scams-for both in-person retail and online shopping — price, location and quality. Substandard quality, prices far below retail and goods being sold at suspicious websites or at locations not ordinarily associated with a particular brand should set off red flags to the consumer.

“Online consumers should be extra vigilant in their Internet purchases and activity during the holiday season,” FBI Special Agent Paul M. Abbate said. “The FBI and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) see significant increases around Cyber Monday, and thereafter, in online scams.”

Here are some tips the FBI suggests for protecting yourself from online fraud:

  • Purchase merchandise only from reputable sellers.
  • Obtain a physical address and phone number rather than a post office box, and call the seller to see if the number is correct and working.
  • Send an email to the seller to make sure the email address is active.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau in the seller’s area.
  • Inquire about returns and warranties.
  • Be wary of overseas sellers, who may not be subject to recourse by U.S. law enforcement.
  • Don’t judge a company by its website.  Impressive-looking websites can be set up quickly.
  • Use a credit card for purchases rather than a money order or personal check if your credit card company allows you to dispute charges if something goes wrong.
  • Shop around to educate yourself about the price range for the item; if the deal is too good to be true, it probably isn’t legitimate.
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If you are a victim of an internet crime, you may report it at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.