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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Gone are the days of waiting for Black Friday to get those holiday shopping deals.
Savings and discounts online have taken center stage for some, but it could be more risky if you are not cautious.

"I think we see both sides of it. I think we see people who aren't careful at all, and people who are too terrified to use it as a resource," said Dee Albritton, executive director Fast Forward, a community technology center.

Albritton works with people who are just beginning to find their way online. She says shopping reputable websites is a good resource, but warns that people should make sure their computer security is strong.

"The other thing you wanna make sure of, number one, is that the computer that you're gonna use has been updated, that it's safe," said Albritton. She says your computer, security software and programs should all be up to date to provide the best protection.

If you are using a public computer or internet connection, Albritton says you should also be aware of your surroundings and make sure you log out and close your browser before leaving.

She says you can also use private browsers to hide where you have been online. This process is different for each browser.

Investigator Colin Bailey with the Columbia Police Department's Special Victims Unit, says you should also look for certain things before shopping online, like contact information, physical addresses and secure sites.

"Make sure the website you're on does actually say in the URL, in the address at the top, "https"that generally means, layman's terms, is that it is secure," said Bailey.

He warns you should be careful with emails your may receive asking for personal information.

"It's very rare that they're gonna be contacting you and asking you for better directions to your house or for passwords or for banking information," he said,

So if you plan to skip the stores this holiday season, remember to take that extra time to make sure you are shopping safely online.

"You really want to be sure that you're protecting yourself in any way that you can. It takes seconds and it could save you thousands of dollars in the long run,"

If you think you have become a victim of an online scam or crime, Bailey says you should try and contact the store in question, your bank and law enforcement.

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