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Tips to decipher real online deals from fakes

November 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
It's Cyber Monday, and online retailers are hoping for a boost with holiday sales. Here are some tips to help you find real bargains.According to Buy.com, Cyber Monday is shaping up to be the biggest Internet shopping day in history. They say consumers are finding more of what they need online because the brick and mortar stores are holding less inventory.

Shop online and you'll see plenty of Web sites offering special deals Monday only. Electronics, computers, clothing and toys are deeply discounted.

But you may have to act fast to get the best buys, as some items have already sold out.

Some Web sites I like to use are Overstock.com for bargain purchases, and Promotionalcodes.com because it will give you some of the secret codes to help you save even more online.

Another is DealTaker.com which gets its deals from consumers just like you and me.

"It's basically a community of users that come together. We have about 225,000 registered users. They come to our Web site, and they find deals and things just through their normal daily lives, and then they come to our site and share them on the Web site so that other people can find them," said Kevin Strawbridge, president of DealTaker.com.

Some deals we spotted available Monday only include: a $200 Apple iPod Touch for $158 at Amazon.com; a $249 Garmin Nuvi GPS navigator for $186.99 at Target.com; and at TheLimited.com, everything is 40 percent off plus free shipping on all orders.

Now you might see some better deals in your e-mails, but don't believe everything you read. In fact, here are the most frequent online shopping scams:

Fake holiday eCards

If you don't recognize the sender, delete it. If it's not addressed to you specifically, delete it.

Fake holiday products

If you don't recognize a company, don't order anything from them until you're sure they exist.

PayPal and eBay phishing

A frequent trick is a link to a fake eBay or PayPal log-in page. Don't follow the link in e-mails. Type it directly into your browser.

Bank phishing

Banks will never ask for your personal information in an e-mail, and keep an eye out for poor spelling and grammar.

If you have a smartphone, it can help you compare online deals with department store deals.

"There are apps that will turn your camera into a barcode scanner, and in a matter of seconds, it will scan the barcode and return information about pricing from any number of different online stores," said Rick Broida of CNET.com.

Since 1935, state law says if you're consuming a product in California, then you should pay a use tax, which is equivalent to the sales tax, even if you bought it out of state. The legislature is debating a bill that would go after online retailers for the tax and of course they would then pass that on to the consumer.