With many shoppers skipping the malls and turning to the Internet for holiday gifts, Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York is offering 10 tips for safe online shopping on "Cyber Monday" and throughout the season.
"To avoid the hassles, lines and crowds, many consumers are staying home and shopping online," said Warren Clark, president of BBB serving Upstate New York. "While online shopping may be convenient, the Internet also has a dark side with scammers and viruses that can cost consumers not only money and time, but can also hijack their personal information."
BBB's 10 tips for safe shopping online
1. Protect your computer. Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly.
2. Check a site's security settings. If the site is secure, its URL should start with "https://." You also may see a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.
3. Shop trustworthy websites. Look for the BBB seal on the site and click to confirm it's valid. The seal will take you to a site's BBB business review. If there is no seal, you can always check out any business at bbb.org. Also, make sure you are shopping with a brand retailer you know and trust.
5. Beware of "too-good-to-be-true" deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.
6. Beware of phishing. Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming problems with an order, account or a package to lure the buyer into revealing financial information. If you receive such an email, BBB recommends you pick up the phone and call the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm a problem.
7. Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don't receive an item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are any unauthorized charges on the card, and many card issuers have zero-liability policies if someone steals and uses your card number. Check your credit card statement regularly for unauthorized charges. Avoid using GreenDot Money cards or wiring money.
8. Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page of an order or emails confirming the order until you receive the item and are satisfied.
9. Obtain tracking numbers for shipments. If you need the product before the holidays, find out when the seller intends to ship it and, if possible, how it will be shipped. The tracking number can help you find a lost order.
10. Know your rights. Federal law requires orders made by phone, mail or online be shipped by the date promised or within 30 days if no delivery time was stated. If goods aren't shipped on time, shoppers can cancel and demand a refund. Consumers also may reject merchandise if it is defective or was misrepresented.
For scam alerts, tips and other information, visit bbb.org.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2013, people turned to BBB more than 132 million times for BBB business reviews on more than 4.5 million businesses and charity reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 112 local, independent BBBs across North America, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review and industry self-regulation.