IF you're looking to grab a bargain in the Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales, here are some tips that could keep your money safe.

The Trading Standards team at Cheshire West and Chester Council are warning residents to be vigilant when shopping for discounted items in the sales this weekend.

Friday, November 24 and Monday, November 27 will see a huge increase in on-line shopping as Christmas approaches and large queues form as stores cut prices and people try to grab the best bargains.

Tips for online shopping

If you'll be taking advantage of some online savings, here are some tips to ensure you do so safely:

Do some research - always try to use websites you know and trust. If you click on a site you've never seen before, check it thoroughly. Watch out for spelling mistakes ore poor-quality images, these can indicate that the site was put together in a rush. Click away from the site if you spot anything suspicious.

Be wary of out-of-the-blue emails - be cautious of any unsolicited emails that prompt you to click on a link. Hover over the URL and the true address will show up in the left hand corner of the screen. Alarm bells should start to ring if the retailer’s site it’s taking you to has odd characters or numbers in it.

Look for a secure site - always check that the site is secure by looking for the ‘https’ in the URL of the payments page and the padlock symbol in the address bar. If the site doesn't have these features, don't enter your financial details. Also make sure the trader has a genuine address and landline number you can contact them on if things go wrong, not just an email address.

Strangers are danger - never transfer money to someone you don't know. Instead, use online secure payment systems like PayPal.

Protect your computer - make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software. Also be careful at wi-fi hotspots, public wi-fi can be easily hacked. Do your shopping transactions at home.

Use your credit card - buying items on your credit card gives you protection under the Consumer Credit Act and means you'll be able to claim through the retailer or credit card provider for any purchases over the value of £100 and up to £30,000 that turn out to be faulty or don’t turn up at all.

Check your balances – keep an eye on your bank and credit card account balances in the days and weeks following Black Friday or Cyber Monday. This will help you spot any fraudulent activity under your name.

If you prefer to do your shopping in person, the Trading Standards team advise to be aware of store opening times and to try to get in and out early. The sales might also prove tempting to thieves, so ensure that you've locked your vehicle and keep your purse or wallet in a safe place to avoid pickpockets who may try to cash in on the large crowds.

The Council’s Cabinet Member for Homes, Planning and Safer Communities, Councillor Christine Warner said: "There can be some real shopping bargains available on Black Friday and Cyber Monday just in time for Christmas. Also beware if the price seems too good to be true…it probably is. Please follow these simple tips and avoid being the victim of a fraudster.

"Our Trading Standards team would like to also ask residents to be wary of counterfeit goods at this time of year."

If you think you have been the victim of an on-line scam , contact Citizens Advice Cheshire West by calling Adviceline: 0808 2787 806 or using the email enquiry service.

Online advice is available via webchat accessed through the Citizens Advice website.