Every year, more people head online rather than to the mall to get their holidayshopping done. Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, has officiallyreplaced Black Friday as the most popular day to shop for the holidays.Shopping online means avoiding the crowds, but it also opens up the buyer toattacks from scammers and hackers.
“You can’t beat shopping online for convenience, comfort and comparing prices,” saidRandy Hutchinson, BBB president. “But don’t let your guard down. Take thenecessary precautions to avoid fraudulent websites, scammers and other ‘Grinches’who would just love to ruin your holidays.”
The BBB recommends the following top 10 tips forshopping online this holiday season to help fight unscrupulous onlineretailers, scammers and hackers:
1. Protect your computer.Always have a secure firewall and themost recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spywaresoftware.
2. Shop on trustworthy websites. Startat bbb.org to check onthe seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction. Look for the BBBlogo and other widely-recognized third-party verification seals on retailerwebsites, but click through to make sure they are real (some rogue sitesplagiarize seals to look legitimate). Remember, a glitzy website doesn’t alwaysmean a legitimate business. Look on the contact information for a physical addressand a phone number. It’s a good idea to call that phone number to see if youcan actually get through to someone or if you just get redirected back to thewebsite without reaching a real, live person.
4. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true. Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails can oftensound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on this year’s hotgifts and other hard-to-find items. Unsolicited emails often direct you tolook-alike sites that aren’t who they pretend to be.
5. Beware of phishing. Legitimatebusinesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account tolure you into revealing financial information. If you receive such an e-mail, theBBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the contact number on thewebsite where the purchase was made to see if there really is a problem withthe transaction.
6. Confirm that your online purchase is secure. Make sure you are on a secure site by checking in the addressbox for the “s” in https:// and/orfor the “lock” symbol before paying. Still not sure? Try right-clickinganywhere on the page and select “Properties” or “View Page Info”. This will letyou see the real URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal if thesite is not encrypted.
7. Pay with a credit card. It’sbest to use a credit card; under federal law, you can dispute the charges ifyou don’t receive the item. Your also have dispute rights if there areunauthorized charges on your credit card. If you are going to shop onclassified ad web sites like Craigslist, never wire money and only buy locallywhere you can see the item before you hand over your money.
8. Keep documentation of your order. Save the final confirmation page or confirmation e-mail.You should also save a copy of the web page and any e-mails for futurereference and as a record of the purchase.
9. Check your credit card statements often. Don’t wait for paper statements; check for suspiciousactivity by looking at online statements regularly or calling your credit cardcompanies.
10. Know your rights. Federal lawrequires that orders made online or by mail or phone be shipped by the datepromised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goodsaren’t shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund. There is nogeneral three-day cancellation right, but you do have the right to rejectmerchandise if it’s defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, it’s thecompany’s policies that determine if you can cancel the purchase and receive arefund or credit.
For more advice on staying safe online thisholiday season, and to see reports on thousands of online retailers, go to www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-holiday/.