Planning to knock out some of your holiday shopping on Cyber Monday?
Take advantage of the sales and the free shipping offers, but don’t let scammers take advantage of you.
The Better Business Bureau of Western Virginia offers these tips for staying safe online:
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.
Confirm that your online purchase is secure. Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, right-click anywhere on the page and select “Properties.” This should let you see the actual URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal whether the site is not encrypted.
Pay with a credit card. Using a credit card is suggested because the shopper can dispute the charges if he/she doesn’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card, and some card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.
Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by e-mail. The BBB recommends saving a copy of the Web page and any e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.
Be on the lookout for counterfeit websites and too-good-to-be-true deals:
- Free Gift Cards: Be wary of unsolicited texts or emails offering “contest winners” free gift cards. Responding to texts indicates that phone numbers are active and recipients will likely be spammed more.
- Bogus Coupons: Watch for fake downloadable coupons that could wreak havoc on computers and provide digital identity thieves with personal information.
- Exceptionally-Low Prices: Avoid too-good-to-be-true offers. Extremely low or unrealistic prices on in-demand or hard-to-find goods are a red flag that retailers may not be legitimate.
- Blurry or Distorted Photos: Ignore websites with lousy images. If images are unclear or skewed, it may indicate that they were hijacked and reused from other sources. Vendors of authentic products will provide clear, high-quality photos.
- Questionable Licensing: Shop elsewhere if background information cannot be verified. Reputable e-tailers will display contact information and have the proper licenses for the state where they claim to be located.
- Unsecure Payment Forms: Don’t enter personal data or pay on for purchases on unencrypted Web pages; secured sites will display “https” in the address bar.
- Privacy Policies: Don’t be careless with personal information. Only do business with websites that clearly outline how personal information will be handled and avoid companies that will sell that information to third-parties. Privacy policies should be easily accessible from website landing pages.
- Start with trust. Go to http://www.bbb.org and check out the business or to find a BBB Accredited Business you can trust and to make sure you are dealing with a reputable business that will guarantee the sale prices they claim to have.
For more advice on safe shopping, please visit www.bbb.org or contact the BBB Serving Western VA at 342-3455 or 800-533-5501.