E-mail systems are being flooded by internet merchants offering last-week specials for last-week Christmas shoppers. The state Division of Finance urges those shoppers to be careful.

The division gets a lot of complaints this time of year about fraudulent websites and other individuals looking to steal personal information or sell non-existent merchandise. But it says consumers can protect themselves by checking sources such as the Better Business Bureau or trustworthy business reporting sites on the internet before dealing with retailers or charities. The Attorney General’s office has a “Check a Charity page on its website, for example.

Finance Division spokesman Chris Cline says the buyers should use their own computer or those from a trusted source.

And use a credit card, not a debit card. Nobody can help if a debit card is used and the money is withdrawn from a bank account. But a credit card company can take steps to stop unauthorized billings or at least strike fraudulent amounts from the consumer’s bill.

AUDIO: Cline interview 607