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Cyber Monday Do's and Don'ts

It's Cyber Monday, and if your head is already spinning from all the online choices, stay calm.

On "The Early Show" Monday, tech expert Katie Linendoll, CNET technology contributor, shared the do's and don'ts for cyberspace shopping.

Special Section: Holiday Gift Guide

CYBER MONDAY 101: DO'S & DON'TS

LINENDOLL: "DON'T trust every link under "Cyber Monday Deals" on search engines
DO shop with companies you already know"
This month alone, there has been a 400 percent increase in people searching for "Cyber Monday deals" on Google. Hackers know this and prey on keyword searches for big items like "tech," "jewelry," and "toys" and can create fake sites which redirect you through their web site to get your personal information as you're shopping online. It's always better to go directly to the company's web site you love. If you love a store like Target, go to their web site directly because they're sure to have a deal for Cyber Monday. You could also check out the Facebook page and Twitter account for any company you love. All large companies have them now. A lot of your favorite stores will also let you sign up for email and text alerts that will notify you of their deals. There are even applications for your smartphones that will tell you deals of the day and some companies will let you sign up for text message alerts that will let you know about the latest deal.

LINENDOLL: "DO use well known sites for reviews & comparison shopping
DON'T pay attention to a low number of reviews"

The same way that some insurance compares their prices to other places ensuring you the best deal, a trusted site like Amazon.com or shopping.google.com will allow you to examine the specific features of a product and compare the prices of what you are purchasing across a wide array of stores so you know you're getting a good deal and the right item. There are also apps available for smartphones, which allows you to comparison shop and have a great system of reviews where users provide feedback on all of their products. There is one cautionary note, however, when it comes to reading reviews, don't pay attention to somebody who has a low number of reviews. Often, companies will hire people to up their rating on Amazon, but the red flag is that they're not regular Amazon customers and have only one or two reviews. Pay attention to people who regularly review products to get the best advice.

LINENDOLL: "DO call companies directly for warranty info
DON'T buy an extended warranty just because"

You really have to research the product you're planning on getting a warranty for because it can be different at different places. You should check what the standard warranty for a product is by calling the company directly. Places like Dell or Gateway have actual tech support that you can call, or you can check out a company's web site for specific warranty information. When it comes to laptops or netbooks, the average lifetime of a computer these days is 5 years. If you're buying a $500 netbook and the warranty is $150, it's just not worth it. On the other hand, if you're buying a Macbook Pro and spending over $2000 on it and getting Apple's great Applecare its worth the extra money. The rule of thumb is not to buy a warrant if it costs a third the value of the product you're purchasing.

LINENDOLL: "DO check out the online FAQ, help and customer service sections
DON'T make a big purchase unless 100 percent sure to avoid high restock fees"

It really does vary from store to store. What you should know is that every retailer has a help section, customer service section or FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on their site so it's important to check those out before you make a purchase. A good rule of thumb, however, is to know not to make a big ticket purchase as a gift if you're not 100 percent certain that what you're purchasing is what your intended wants. A lot of these online stores will only give you a store credit back and some have 25 percent restocking fees plus shipping and handling.

LINENDOLL: "DON'T eagerly use public wi-fi
DO use a credit card & not a debit card for purchases"

You should think twice about making a purchase using public wi-fi. Public wi-fi makes you vulnerable to hackers. In addition, when you do make a purchase, make sure that it's being done securely. Web browsers like Firefox and Internet Explorer use a padlock in the address bar to show that you are in a secure/trusted website. You'll also see that the web address begins with https which means your credit card info is being encrypted as it goes through the web. Also, always make sure to use a credit card online and not a debit card. If there's ever an error in a transaction, using a debit card can become a problem.

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