The explosive growth each year in online holiday sales means shoppers need to be extremely diligent in making digital purchases. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday – the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving – are still big days for online retail shopping, more consumers are shopping online throughout the year.
No matter when you shop online, be cautious! Scammers with fake websites and emails are lurking out there to separate you from your money.
Protect your computer by installing the most recent updates for spam filters, anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall security.
Shop on trustworthy sites, whether you’re using a computer or a phone. Check the BBB’s website for the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction.
Confirm your online purchase is secure – Before paying, look in the address box for an “s” in the https:// (not just http://), and check your browser window for the “lock” icon. If in doubt, right click anywhere on the web page and select “properties.” This will let you see the URL and whether it’s encrypted.
Pay for your online purchases with a credit card, not a debit card. Federal law allows you to dispute unauthorized charges.
If PayPal is an option for the sites you shop on, use it. It protects you from having to enter your credit card number and other payment information on the shopping site.
Keep documentation of your online purchase. Save the confirmation page, confirmation number or confirmation email.
Don’t wait for credit card statements to come in the mail. Check your credit card statements online regularly. If something seems suspicious, call the credit card company.
Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goods aren’t shipped on time, you can cancel and demand a refund. There is no three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject merchandise if it’s defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, the company’s policies determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.
Remember that online shopping will never be completely safe, and scammers can get to you through email solicitations. Pay attention to the following tips from the FBI (www.fbi.gov).
Beware of unsolicited (spam) emails. Don’t respond, and don’t click on any links within an unsolicited email.
Compare the link in the email with the URL (website address) to which you are directed and determine if they match and lead you to a legitimate website.
Log directly onto a retailer’s website for the business identified in the email, instead of following the link or calling a phone number in an unsolicited email. If the email appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer or other company you deal with, your statements and correspondence may provide proper contact information.
Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask you to provide or confirm personal or financial information.