Cyber Monday—the Monday after Thanksgiving—is one of the most popular days to shop for the holidays. Shopping online means avoiding the crowds, but it can also expose the buyer to attacks from scammers and hackers. In order to fight these online grinches, your Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends 10 tips to stay safe when shopping online for the holidays.
Every year, more people head online—rather than to the mall—to get their holiday shopping done. In 2010, online shoppers spent $1 billion dollars on Cyber Monday, up 16 percent from 2009, representing the heaviest online spending day in history, according to comScore.com.
“The convenience and ease of shopping online has replaced the hassle of going to the store for many people,” said Matthew Fehling, BBB President/CEO. “Taking steps to avoid fraud online will result in a much happier holiday for consumers.”
BBB recommends the following “Top 10 Online Shopping Tips” to help holiday shoppers fight 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 and a secure firewall.
2. Shop on trustworthy websites – Always look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trustmarks” on retailer websites and click on the seals to confirm they are valid. Shoppers should start with www.bbb.org to check the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction. Even when shopping online, it is important to have the contact information for the business including a physical address and phone number, should there be any questions later.
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 not be afraid to pass up a “deal” that might cost them dearly in the end. In some cases, “free” gift offers that require a credit card number, may charge consumers later for products or services they did not order.
5. Beware of phishing – Legitimate businesses generally do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such e-mail, BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm there really is a problem with the transaction.
6. Confirm your online purchase is secure – Shoppers should always look at the URL (web address) for the “s” in https:// and for the “lock” symbol, generally in the lower-right corner, before paying.
7. Pay with a credit card – Credit cards can offer extra protection. Under federal law, shoppers can generally dispute charges if they don’t receive an item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the cardholder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it. Never wire money to unknown individuals.
8. Keep good records – After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by e-mail – BBB recommends saving a copy of the Web page and any e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase. Keep detailed information about the transaction, including the order confirmation number, shipping costs, and warranties.
9. Check your credit card statements often – Don’t wait for paper statements; BBB recommends consumers check their credit card statements for suspicious activity by either calling the credit card company or by checking statements online regularly.
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 aren’t shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund. There is no general three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject merchandise if it’s defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, the policy of the company will determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.
For more advice on staying safe online this holiday season visit www.bbb.org/us/bbb-news, and to see reports on thousands of online retailers, go to www.bbb.org.
About BBB Serving Central, Northern & Western Arizona
BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. Incorporated locally in 1938, today your BBB serves communities in Central, Northern and Western Arizona, supported by over 9,400 BBB Accredited Businesses. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews® and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust.