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Queen of Free: Cyber Monday safety strategies

Cyber Monday has evolved from the days of workers finding online deals from their work computers after the Thanksgiving weekend to now just shopping on smartphones.

INDIANAPOLIS — If you skipped the Black Friday crowds in stores, you didn't totally miss your window for holiday gift deals.

More deals are on their way on Cyber Monday, which has evolved from the days of workers finding online deals from their work computers after the Thanksgiving weekend to many online retailers offer deals all week long so we can just shop from our smartphones. 

It's more convenient than ever, but Cherie Lowe, the Queen of Free, said you still need to be careful. "The enticement of deep discounts can cause all of us to fall prey to flashy marketing and even scams," she wrote in her weekly blog.

Cherie joined Gina Glaros on 13Sunrise to share her specific tips to keep your budget in shape.

Shop safely

Start by making sure you’re on a legitimate website. Cherie's trick is to look for the small lock in the URL line. Be sure to read multiple reviews for products before you click "buy now." You can confirm a merchant's contact information when things look suspicious or a legitimate site has been spoofed. And always check your account for false charges and billing errors, and address them immediately. You may have to shut down accounts and file complaints. 

Use curbside and ship-to-store

Retailers that offer both brick and mortar and online shopping probably offer ship- to-store and curbside pickup options. You may be able to pick up purchases on the same day you order and save on shipping charges. This year, in particular, you could find this option more reliable.

Coupons and cash back sites

Coupons that show up when you log onto a site don’t automatically get applied to your digital shopping cart. Write down and try to apply codes before you start shopping. But you may have to enter the code at checkout. Some retailers allow you to stack coupons and use more than one code at a time (Kohl’s is one but there are others, too). For other codes, use cash-back sites like Rakuten or RetailMeNot. Rakuten offered as much as 12% back on specific retailers on Black Friday. Plus, you know you're landing on a safe site, so it’s worth taking that extra step for a little extra cash and peace of mind.

Local stores have websites, too

Many of your favorite local brick and mortar stores also have an online presence. Use them to score gift cards and other deals on Cyber Monday. Double-check their Facebook page for any additional coupon codes or promotions.

Use the chat function

Many retailers will be happy to help you shop in a live chat. You can ask if there’s a couple or discount available that you may have missed, and a customer service rep might have special codes or unadvertised discounts available if you ask kindly.

Set a timer

It’s a good idea to set a timer when shopping online because you can easily click down a cyber rabbit hole and emerge empty handed. Cyber Monday can be a great way to score holiday gifts and the things you need, but don’t waste a day of your life aimlessly clicking around.