Online Shopping Safety
In today’s electronic world, it is extremely easy to shop and purchase goods or services on your computer, without ever leaving your home. Certainly, there are many benefits — cyber storefronts are always open and bargains are abundant. It is simple to comparison shop with the click of your mouse, and sellers can offer lower prices because they do not have to pay premium overhead costs for rent or sales clerks.
But, is it safe to shop online? The NCL (National Consumer League) National Fraud Information Center (http://www.fraud.org/) has gathered statistics related to complaints related to the Top Ten Internet Scams that indicate Fraud Trends. In 2018, the most commonplace to be scammed is through interaction over the internet. And, of the top 10 scams, the most prevalent by far at 43.47% is through the purchase of general merchandise online.
The upside is that there are steps you can take to protect yourself and enjoy the benefits of shopping online.
What can you do?
You can take numerous security precautions while shopping online. The following tips provide excellent points from which to start:
- Know who you are buying from – Get the phone number and physical address of the seller. Check with the Better Business Bureau or other consumer protection agency to see if there are complaints lodged against the merchant. Check their website to see if they support or belong to programs that encourage good business practices.
- Pay with a credit card – Paying with a credit card is safer than using a debit card, check, or cash. A credit card gives you the ability to legally dispute charges for goods that you never received, ordered, or were misrepresented to you. If there are unauthorized charges on a credit card, your liability is limited to $50, under federal law.
- Look into single-use credit cards from your card issuer – Credit card issuers are adopting a new technology that allows you to make charges to your credit card account without using your real credit card number. This protects you from additional bogus charges by the seller or an unscrupulous employee of the seller.
- Know exactly what you are buying and how much it will cost – Understand the seller’s description of the product and read all the fine print. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Factor in all charges, including shipping and handling. Be sure to comparison shop other sites to validate the cost.
- Print and save records of all online transactions – Make copies of the product description, price, receipt and even the main web page of the seller with contact information. File this paper trail in the event you might need it later.
- Check out warranty and service information – Determine if the product comes with a warranty and if the seller provides service should you need it.
- Confirm that the seller has a return policy – Find out if the seller will allow you to return the item if you are not satisfied. Also determine if you are responsible for shipping and handling for the return and if there are restock fees.
- Validate the security of your transaction – Legitimate merchants will utilize Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or HTTPS, which encrypts information you send over the Internet. Look for one of these signs that your transaction is secure:
- The web address changes from “http” to “https”. The “s” indicates that the site is now secure.
- Your browser shows a closed lock icon next to the URL or website you are browsing to. Unencrypted web pages may display an open lock or give a warning that the site is insecure.
- Consider what the website says about how the seller safeguards your information during transmission and storage. Understand that criminals can say the same thing, but are likely lying.
Never provide sensitive information in an email to the seller or anybody else!
What about Internet auctions?
The same rules mentioned above apply to online auctions. In addition, it is advisable to become familiar with the site before bidding. This includes ascertaining what protections are available to auction buyers and gleaning as much information as possible about the seller.
What can I do if I need help?
If you have problems with an online shopping transaction, try to reconcile directly with the product seller or auction site director. If you cannot resolve the issue, contact, and file a complaint with one or more of the following:
- The Better Business Bureau at https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started.
- The National Association of Attorneys General at https://www.naag.org/ or the attorney general’s office in your state.
- The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Complaint Form at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1. or your county or state consumer protection agency, which varies by region and can be found online.
- If the merchant is located in a foreign country, go to https://www.econsumer.gov/.
The bottom line!
You can take advantage of the Internet’s great shopping opportunities and still have peace of mind.
These helpful tips are provided by Digital Defense, Inc., a computer security company working with your credit union as a responsible member of the community to help ensure the privacy and security of our nation’s financial information.