With the Holidays fast approaching, and Covid-19 concerns about being in public settings, chances are that you will make at least some of your holiday gift purchases online. While shopping from the convenience of your laptop or tablet, or even your phone is easy and fast, being aware of and avoiding online theft is very important.
According to a report from the US Census Bureau, cited by TheBalance.com, during the first quarter of 2021, an estimated $222.5 Billion was spent on ecommerce sales, compared with only $47.5 Billion in all of 2011. It is easy to see why scammers would see this explosive trend as an opportunity to defraud unsuspecting consumers.
What are some considerations when shopping online?
- If possible, make your purchases from an online retailer you are already familiar with.
- Beware of ads on social media. Do not click on the links for “More Info”, but go to your web browser and search for the company or product name, and look for reviews. You may search with the name and add “scam” or “reviews” to get more information.
- Be careful of bogus websites, which attempt to mimic a well-known retail site by changing the url by just a letter or two, hoping you will not notice.
- Watch out for special sales which are too good to be true. Compare prices at several websites on the merchandise you are shopping for.
- Look for signs that the payment page is secure before entering your personal information. “Http” is not secure. “Https” with a padlock in the url line is what you want to see. That being said, scammers have been known to use this also, so be as sure as possible that the site you are using is legitimate.
- Only pay by credit card or PayPal. Do not agree to any debit card purchase, wire transfers of funds, gift cards or cryptocurrency.
- Only provide information the retailer will need for payment and delivery of the product. Don’t download any software or give other personal information, which they may try to obtain in order to have you qualify for a discount coupon or promotion.
It is also wise to beware of pop-up or other ads on a legitimate site. They may offer coupons or discounts. Clicking on these may expose your device to malware which collects your personal information, passwords, etc, and transmits them back to the scammers.
Always do some basic research on a site you are not familiar with. Check to see if they provide an address to their physical location, and use GoogleMaps to see if the location is in a business district or if it seems to be in a residential area. Call their Customer Service number and see if someone picks up. Check out their returns/refund policy.
If you feel you have been scammed, contact your bank and your credit card immediately to report the incident. Your bank account can be put on hold, and the credit card company can freeze your account. In many cases your liability with the credit card company will be $50 or less. If you purchased the item(s) through a platform like Amazon or eBay, file a complaint. They may help you investigate and recover your money or replacement product.
While there are pitfalls to online shopping, there are many benefits to it as well. Be prepared as you go online, do your research, and chances are good you will avoid any problems.