AG Chris Koster: 'Tis the Season for Online Scamming

Don't let this guy steal your Christmas.
Don't let this guy steal your Christmas.
Hacktivists! Gawker Attacks! Operation Payback!

It's a scary cyberworld out there, and you, too, could be a victim of Internet crime. Especially during this season of light, joy and online credit card information.

Luckily, we Missourians have an attorney general who wants to protect us from any nasty online Elliot Potters who lurk behind paywalls and seek to steal our banking digits. In fact, Chris Koster has launched a special website just to make sure our money for grandma's sweater is going to the right place. He says shoppers should be particularly wary of identity theft, insecure websites and counterfeit products.

More than anything, Koster advises us to channel our inner George Bailey and watch out for deals that are too good to be true. See more of his tips after the jump.

1. If it's too good to be true . . . it probably is. Use your common sense. If you think something seems wrong with a site, it could be an illegitimate company. Watch out for sites with poor quality photos; spelling mistakes; logos that look similar, but not identical to corporate logos; and lack of terms. If you are purchasing from an auction site, see how many identical products they have available -- for example, if they have too many of an expensive designer handbag, the handbags are probably fake. Avoid websites offering unlimited downloads of music or movies, or offering mixed versions of songs.

2. Use a credit card for online shopping. When shopping online, it is best to use credit cards with low or no balances. Shopping with a low balance credit card not only offers protection from the credit card company for fraudulent purchases should your information be used, but the balance also limits potential damage.

3. Only shop from reputable online businesses. Many online businesses offer substantial discounts on products to lure you into their site. Be careful dealing with a company that you have never heard of. Many of these companies are not authorized vendors for certain high-ticket items. For example if you buy a Canon camera from a retailer that is not an authorized vendor, you will not be able to get any relief from the manufacturer's warranty. Purchasing a high-ticket item from a well-known retailer is the way to go.

4. Read product reviews when shopping online. Many stores allow customers to leave feedback on various products and the service of the site.

See the rest of Koster's tips here.