The official beginning of the holiday shopping season and the most popular day to shop for the holidays has been moved back – from Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving - to Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving. This year Cyber Monday falls on November 29th.
A growing number of consumers are embracing technology to avoid throngs of holiday shoppers in stores. The trade-off however, is that consumers have to protect themselves from online scammers and hackers.
Online shopping is now more popular than going to the mall, according to the National Retail Federation. Last year, 96.5 million Americans shopped on Cyber Monday with a keyboard and mouse, overtaking the 79 million consumers who left home to compare prices and buy their holiday gifts and supplies.
“Many consumers are delighted that they can avoid traffic, jammed parking lots and shoulder-to-
“Scammers and hackers unfortunately are also in high gear during this season, but Internet shoppers can take a number of steps to avoid getting burned by online fraud.”
Following are “Top 10 Online Shopping Tips” to protect against unscrupulous online retailers, scammers and hackers:
1. Protect your computer – A computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software as well as a secure firewall. One click on a bogus site can download software that can corrupt or delete your files and capture your credit card information, logins and passwords.
2. Shop on trustworthy websites – Shoppers should start with www.bbb.org to check the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction. Always look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trustmarks”
3. Protect your personal information – BBB recommends taking the time to read sites’ privacy policies to understand how your personal information will be used. If there isn’t one posted, it should be taken as a red flag that personal information may be sold to others without your permission.
4. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true – Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a “deal” that might cost them dearly in the end.
5. Beware of phishing – Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure a “buyer” into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an e-mail, BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.
6. Confirm your online purchase is secure – Always look in the address box for an “s” in “https://” and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. If you have any doubts about a site, BBB recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page and selecting “Properties.”
7. Pay with a credit card – Under federal law, shoppers can dispute charges if an item isn’t delivered. Consumers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on credit cards, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals and uses the credit card number. Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
8. Keep documentation of your order - After completing the transaction, there may be a final confirmation page or you may receive a confirmation by e-mail. BBB recommends saving a copy of the Web page and any e-mails as a record of the purchase and for future reference, such as the date a warranty goes into effect.
9. Check your credit card statements often – Don’t wait for paper statements; BBB recommends consumers regularly check credit card transactions for suspicious activity directly with the bank or credit card issuer by telephone or online.
10. Know your rights – 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 are not shipped on time, the shopper may cancel the order and demand a refund. There is no general three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject merchandise if it was misrepresented or is defective. Otherwise, the seller’s policies determine if the shopper may cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.
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Founded in 1928, Connecticut BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. For more advice on finding companies and businesses, start your search with trust at www.bbb.org.