Top Ten Tips for Staying Safe Shopping Online

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    Every year, more people head online—rather than to the mall—to get their holiday shopping done. “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 Fred T. Elsberry, Jr., President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Metro Atlanta, Athens & Northeast Georgia.

    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:

    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 that they are valid.

    3. Protect your personal information –Take the time to read the site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there isn’t one posted, it could be a red flag that personal information may be sold to others.

    4. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true –Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a “deal” that might cost them dearly in the end.

    5. Beware of phishing – Beware of e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an e-mail, call the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm.

    6. Confirm 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.

    7. Pay with a credit card – It’s best to use a credit card, because under federal law, the shopper can dispute the charges if he or she doesn’t receive the item. Never wire money and only shop locally on sites like Craigslist.

    8. 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 –save a copy of the Web page and any e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.

    9. Check your credit card statements often – Don’t wait for paper statements; check credit card statements for suspicious activity by either calling credit card companies 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, it’s the company’s policies that determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.

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