Sunday

Online Shopping, Enjoy But Be Careful...


This holiday season online shopping is the solution for all of us who have lots of of friends and family, but little time. However, online shopping is not without risk. Last year, I was the victim of identity theft. So, while I intend to shop online this year, I also intend to take precautions to reduce the risk of being ripped off.

I recently learned that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has collaborated with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), a non-profit organization devoted to cyber security education and awareness to prepare an article entitled, “10 Tips for Smart Holiday Shopping Online”.

They make the following recommendations:

Shop only those stores you know or investigate the seller. If you’re unfamiliar with the seller, see what you can learn about them on a search engine.

Only buy from sites that permit you to return the goods. To do this you must actually read return policies before you approve the purchase. Despite your best intentions, some gifts may need to be returned or exchanged. People may not like your gift, the gift make be a duplicate of what they already have, or the gift may get broken in transit.

Know what you’re buying. Sometimes a deal is too good to be true. Read the seller’s product description closely. Name-brand items at greatly reduced prices might be counterfeit or “refurbished”.

Beware of Pop-Ups. Don’t click on pop-ups and never provide your password, login name, or your financial information in response to an unsolicited email. Just clicking a link in a fraudulent email could install spyware on your computer.

Look for safety signs. Before entering any personal information on a site, look for signs that the site is secure. There may be a closed padlock on the browser’s status bar or a similar sign. NOTE: The beginning of the website’s URL address should change from http to shttp or https, when you are asked to provide payment information. This indicates that the purchase is encrypted or secured.

Secure your computer. Install anti-spy-ware and a firewall on your computer, at a minimum. Security software must be updated regularly to help protect against the latest threats. Set your security software and operating system (like Windows or Apple’s OS) to update automatically. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov and staysafeonline.org to learn more about security software, firewalls, and other ways to secure your computer.

Always use a credit card. Do not use a debit card, send cash, wire money, or pay by electronic check. Credit cards are simply safer. Credit cards frequently provide you with recourse in the event of a mistaken delivery, failed delivery, or theft of your credit card number.

Know exactly what you’re paying. Know the full price, and check out incentives. Comparative shopping is sound practice, but be sure that you’re comparing apples to apples. If you’re looking for the best deal, compare total costs, including shipping and handling. Online retailers frequently offer incentives like free shipping during the holidays, but there may be some strings attached. If you use a price comparison site to find a bargain, enter the product’s model number, and be as specific as you can about its features.

Maintain your records. Print and save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and copies of any email you exchange with the seller. I cannot stress this enough, read your credit card statements as soon as you get them to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized charges.

It ain’t over until you turn off your computer. After each online shopping trip turn your computer. Many people leave their computers running 24/7. This practice is like opening up your wallet for any scammer, thief and hacker. To be extra safe, switch off your computer when you are not using it.

If you become a victim despite your best efforts, you may file a complaint with the FTC visit, www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. (You may also get information from these sources.)

To See the FTC’s article, visit: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt082.shtm 


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