Cyber Monday—the Monday after Thanksgiving—has officially replaced Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving—as the most popular day to shop for the holidays. Shopping online means avoiding the crowds, but it also opens the buyer up to attacks from scammers and hackers. In order to fight these online grinches, the Better Business Bureau recommends 10 tips for staying safe when holiday shopping online.
Every year, more people head online—rather than to the mall—to get their holiday shopping done. Last year, 96.5 million Americans shopped online during Cyber Monday while 79 million Americans shopped at brick-and-mortar retailers on Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation.
“The convenience and ease of shopping online has replaced the hassle of going to the store for many people—but online shopping has its own set of risks,” said Randy Hutchinson, BBB President. “Taking steps to avoid the fraud online will result in a much happier holiday for everyone—except, of course, for scammers and hackers.”
Following are the “Top 10 Online Shopping Tips” for holiday shoppers to help fight unscrupulous online retailers, scammers and hackers:
- Protect your computer: Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates.
- Shop trustworthy websites: Look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trustmarks” on retail websites. Click on the seals to confirm they’re valid.
- Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals: Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails may offer extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. There may be hidden costs – or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.
- Beware of phishing: Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or account to lure the buyer into revealing financial information. If you receive such an e-mail, the BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm any problem with the transaction.
- Confirm that your online purchase is secure: Look at the website address or URL in the box at the top of your browser screen. There should be an “s” after “http” or a lock symbol in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. If you have doubts about security, right-click anywhere on the page, and select “Properties” to see the real URL. The dialog box should say whether the site is encrypted.
- Pay with a credit card: Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on the card, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies if someone steals your card number and uses it. Never wire money.
- Keep documentation of your order: Save a copy of the confirmation page or e-mails confirming the order until you receive the item and are satisfied.
- Check your credit card statements often: The BBB recommends that you check your account regularly for suspicious activity by going online or calling your credit card company. Make sure statements match up with purchases you know you made.
- Know your rights: Federal law requires that orders made by phone, mail or online be shipped by the date promised, or within 30 days if no delivery time was stated. If goods aren’t shipped on time, shoppers can cancel and demand a refund. Consumers also may reject merchandise if it is defective or if it was misrepresented.