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Get the best online deals
5 ways to make the most of the Internet this holiday season.
November 23, 2005: 5:03 PM EST
By Gerri Willis, contributing columnist

NEW YORK ( - Tired of swarms of shoppers, snaking check-out lines and the endless quest for parking?

You're not alone. This year more people than ever are holiday shopping online, and today's Top 5 Tips tells you how to get the Internet to work wonders with your wish list.

1. Battle Cyber thieves

Don't trust the security lock icon that appears in a web address that once meant the site was secure. Avivah Litan with Gartner Group said it isn't reliable anymore because cyber thieves are copying and forging these lock icons.

Litan also said that Internet fraud is three times more likely to occur this holiday season.

To make sure the Web site you're on is legitimate, download a toolbar from, a Web site run by ID verification company GeoTrust.

The free toolbar lets you search out a site and beside each search query, there will be a color symbol. Green indicates the site is verified, yellow means the authenticity of the site hasn't been determined and red indicates a fraudulent site.

Microsoft also has an add-in filter for its toolbar. The add-in will warn you of suspicious sites and will block you from sharing your personal info with a fraudulent Web site. Go to

2. Understand the rating

To find the true deals with shopping bots, which are online shopping comparison Web sites, you should sort your search results by price instead of relying on the default search option.

That's because some shopping bots sort the results by how much the merchants pays for placement, rather than by whether you're getting a bargain. At the top five slots go to the stores that bid the most, as long as they meet customer standards.

And the practice isn't unusual.

"The cost per click is a common and widely used practice," says Helen Malani of Shopzilla. The comparison Web site also uses a pay-for placement model.

Go to for some comparison shopping without having to worry about lobbying efforts behind the scene.

3. Get shopping

The longer you wait, the more deals may just pass you by because the holiday season started earlier this year, at least online, according to Patti Freeman Evans of Jupiter Research.

She says it may be because retailers want to get you shopping before you see your energy bill.

So take advantage of their jitters and shop while they're still aggressive and there will be sales just about every weekend.

If you're buying electronics, it's especially important to get shopping. If you wait too long, your coveted flat screen TV or MP3 player may be out of stock.

4. Be the first to know

Does it always seem like you're the last one to know about online sales?

If you don't mind filling out a personal profile, check out the new Web site This is a free service that scans different Web sites and lets you know when clothing goes on sale.

You can even specify your size and brand preferences.

If you don't want to commit to membership, you can find discounts online through This Web site lets you browse through thousands of coupons sorted by the retailer, product and expiration date. Clicking on a coupon offer will take you to the retailers Web site where you can enter the coupon code.

One of the most popular features of the site is the free shipping coupons says Alan Wallace of CouponMountain. Wondering what kind of deals Black Friday is going to bring? Check out rumored Black Friday deals at This site lists over 30 retailers and hundreds of items that may be on sale.

5. Guarantee arrival

The most important part of shopping online is making sure your gift arrives undamaged and on time.

For starters, you'll want to look at how retailers rate when it comes to customer satisfaction. Check out the customer reviews at You should also take a look at and

These sites certify sellers so you can be sure they have good shipping track records and customer satisfaction.


Check out 5 top holiday travel tips.

For all the latest Five Tips columns, click here.  Top of page

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