The November issue of ShopSmart offers advice on avoiding Internet shopping scams. Photo: ShopSmart

We may just be making our way into fall, but the holidays will be here before you know it.

And even though we're sure you've been really, really nice, there are plenty of very naughty folks out there just ready to pounce.

Internet fraud is on the rise, according to ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports, and whether you're buying gifts online or just doing a little shopping, it's important to protect yourself – and your hard-earned money.

The magazine's November issue offers tips on avoiding three of the latest Internet shopping scams:


Smishing
(Not to be confused with the "Jersey Shore's" oft-used term "smushing!")
How it Works: "Phishing" is when you get an e-mail from a supposedly trustworthy source, such as your bank or PayPal, claiming a problem with your account and asking for your user name and password. When you respond, your information is stolen and your account is siphoned.

"Smishing" is the latest twist -- instead of an e-mail, you get an SMS text message. You're told to call a toll-free number, which is answered by a bogus interactive voice-response system that tries to fool you into providing your account number and password.

Prevent It:
If you get a text alert about an account, don't respond before you verify that it's legitimate. You can do a Google search on the number to see whether it matches your financial institution. Even better, call the customer service number at your bank or other service provider to give any needed information to a representative.

Teeny-tiny Charges
How it Works: Thieves get hold of your credit or debit card number and make very small charges of 20 cents to $10. The charges appear on your bill with an innocuous sounding corporate name, and a toll-free number may appear next to the charge. But when you call the number, it's either disconnected or you're instructed to leave a message and your call is never returned.

Prevent It:
Scrutinize every item on your bill every month, and question those you don't recognize. If you think a charge is fraudulent, notify your credit card company as soon as possible, but no later than 60 days after the charge appears. Debit cards offer fewer protections: You must report the problem two days after you notice it. If you don't, you could be liable for the first $500 in fraudulent charges.

Counterfeit Electronics
How it Works: Counterfeiting might seem like old news, but it's still going strong. Fake electronic goods could have substandard wiring, faulty fuses, flammable plastic casings, and harmful chemicals such as lead and mercury. All kinds of electronics have been illegally copied, including computers, phones, and handheld gaming devices.

Prevent It:
Look for a label stating that the product has been certified by CSA International or Underwriters Laboratories. Inspect the product, too. Are there misspellings on the package? If the box is see-through, does it contain all of the listed components, including batteries, cases, and power cords? Is the manufacturer's contact information, including address and phone number, clearly displayed? When in doubt, buy from well-known retailers that offer a full refund.

Now that you've learned about online shopping safety, check out The Row's new shopping site.