Online Shopping Safety for Cyber Monday (and Beyond)

Although it’s only a few years old, Cyber Monday has become one of the most anticipated online shopping days of the year.  Consumers who didn’t finish shopping on Black Friday, those who chose not to battle the crowds and those whoInternet shopping safety just can’t pass up a good deal will find themselves rushing to score some great Cyber Monday deals.  And, much like on Black Friday, the truly conscientious consumers will be logging on at midnight to make sure they get their favorite items before they’re sold out.  But with cybercrime at all time high and scam artists getting more creative each year, it’s a good idea to read the tips below before shopping on Cyber Monday (especially, but not only, if you life in New York, California, Florida, Washington D.C., Texas and Washington State, as those states have registered the highest number of complaints in recent years).  It’s also a good idea to share these tips with any friends you know who enjoy shopping online.

Missing auction items.  According to a 2009 study conducted by the FBI, over 30% of internet complaints result from consumers who purchase items on auction and then fail to receive them or receive an item that does not matched the description of the advertised product.

How to protect yourself:  Whenever possible, pay with a credit card.  The Fair Credit Billing Act protects you if you use plastic to pay for your purchase.  And, while many auctioneers don’t accept credit cards, you can still protect yourself by paying through PayPal with an account linked to your credit card.

Fake websites.  Nobody likes to think that they’d make a purchase from a fake website, but this form of online scam is becoming more popular with each passing year.  Phishing is a scam in which cyber thieves convince consumers to input their information into a fake website or email that looks remarkably similar to a legitimate website.  Over 5 million consumers are sucked into phishing scams each year, with an average loss of about $350.

How to protect yourself: For starters, make sure that your virus protection is up to date, and that your anti-spyware software is current.  Make sure that every site you buy from has a SSL, which looks like HTTPS in the url of the checkout page.  If you receive an email asking you to confirm your details, do not submit any information until you confirm the legitimacy of the email by contacting the online store that it came from.

Identity theft.  While some online scam artists steal only the amount of one purchase from each consumer, expert cyber thieves have found ways to lift your entire identity so that they can use your information for making future purchases at your expense.

How to protect yourself: Check your credit card bills regularly for suspicious purchases.  If you are concerned that you’ve been scammed, you should also call your credit card company immediately to get a report of the recent activity on your account.

5 Additional Ways to Protect Yourself When Shopping Online

  1. Shop on accredited sites. Accreditation from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is always a good sign, as is a seal from a recognized security system such as McAfee or VeriSign.
  2. Never input your information into a popup window.  One of the most common ways for cyber criminals to steal your information is to ‘hijack’ the website you’re shopping on by asking for your information in a popup window.  Be aware of this tactic and make sure never to input your information into a popup window.
  3. Know your prices.  The best way to ensure you’re getting the best deal is to know your prices, so that you can discern between really great deals and marketing hype.
  4. Use a ‘disposable credit card’.  While I don’t advocate being overly afraid to purchase items online, you may feel safer if you use a disposable credit card which will limit the amount that you can spend on the card so that even if it’s stolen, you won’t be robbed blind.  Most major credit card companies offer this service including American Express, Citibank, Bank of America and Discover.
  5. Keep your personal information private. There’s really no reason why you should need to provide your birthday or Social Security number when making standard purchases online.  Be wary of any website that asks you for especially personal information.

Stay tuned for Cyber Monday deals – coming soon!

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