The internet continues to reshape the way we shop, with retail apps and social media stores adding to consumers’ online options and the corona virus pandemic driving people to shop from home in droves. Cybercriminals are keeping pace. Online purchasing is the most common scam type reported to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), accounting for 38 percent of complaints to the BBB’s Scam Tracker in the first seven months of 2020 — up from 24 percent in 2019.
- Do use trusted sites rather than shopping with a search engine. Scammers can game search results to lead you astray.
- Do comparison shop. Check prices from multiple retailers to help determine if a deal you’ve seen really is too good to be true.
- Do research an unfamiliar product or brand. Search for its name with terms like “scam” or “complaint,” and look for reviews.
- Do check that phone numbers and addresses on store sites are genuine, so you can contact the seller in case of problems.
- Do carefully read delivery, exchange, refund and privacy policies. If they are vague or nonexistent, take your business elsewhere.
- Do look twice at URLs and app names. Misplaced or transposed letters are a scam giveaway but easy to miss.
- Do pay by credit card. Liability for fraudulent charges on credit cards is generally limited to $50, and some providers offer 100 percent purchase protection. Paying by debit card does not off offer such safeguards.
- Don’t pay by wire transfer, money order or gift card. Sellers that demand these types of payments are scammers, and unlike with credit cards or reputable e-pay services, there’s little recourse to recover your money.
- Don’t assume a retail website is safe because it is encrypted. Many scam sites use encryption, indicated by a padlock icon or “https://” in front of the URL, to provide a false sense of security. Use other means, like those listed to the left, to confirm if a site is legit.
- Don’t provide more information than a retailer needs. That should be only your billing information and the shipping address.
- Don’t use sites that require you to download software or enter personal information to access coupons or discount codes.
- Don’t buy from sites that are very new, security software maker Norton recommends. Look for a copyright date, and use the WHOIS lookup service to see when a domain was created.
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