Avoid Cyber Monday scams

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 26, 2011

Raleigh ó Many consumers will shop online on Cyber Monday, but Attorney General Cooper urged online shoppers to take steps to protect their money and their personal information.
ěBuying gifts online may help you avoid long lines and crowds, but that convenience comes with its own risks,î Cooper warned. ěUse a little caution when you shop online to save you and your family money and stress during this busy holiday season.î
Cooper offered the following tips to help holiday shoppers protect themselves from cyber-criminals and bad business deals.
Shop sites you know and trust. Stick to established companies instead of fly-by-night websites. If an online merchant is new to you, research the company by checking with the Attorney Generalís Consumer Protection Division and your local Better Business Bureau. You can also check online reviews of merchants and products to spot potential problems.
Do your own price comparison. Just because a website claims to beat prices at competitor sites or at brick-and-mortar retailers doesnít necessarily mean itís true. To get the best deals, compare prices online and off. Also, beware of counterfeit or knock off products that may not deliver the quality you expect.
Read the return policy carefully. Some online retailers wonít let you return items to their local stores, while others may charge a restocking fee or may not let you return certain items if theyíve been opened. Many online retailers donít refund shipping and handling charges, so you may have to pay for shipping if you need to make a return or exchange. This can be especially costly if the item was shipped from outside the country.
Know how to contact the company if problems arise. Get the companyís street address and telephone number and verify them before you place an order. Remember to be especially careful when shopping overseas sites, since no U.S. or state agency has legal authority over business deals with companies in other countries.
Consider paying by credit card. If your order doesnít arrive or isnít what you expected, you can dispute it with your credit card company. Federal law also limits your liability to $50 if your credit card number gets stolen. Get a credit card with a low limit that you use only for online shopping.
Check site security before you enter any payment information. Look for a lock icon on the website and a web address that starts with ěhttps.î Remember to check your credit card or bank statement carefully to make sure that you arenít charged more than you agreed to pay, and report any suspicious charges to your bank or credit card company right away.
Ask when your order will arrive. Internet and catalog shoppers are protected by the Federal Mail Order Rule. By law, a company is required to ship your order within the time stated. If you arenít given a delivery date, the company has 30 days to ship your purchase once your order is received. If the item doesnít ship on time, the seller must let you know and give you a chance to cancel for a full refund.
Print out and save records of all online orders. Keep the product description, price, online receipt, order number and customer service number. Save any emails the company sends you verifying your purchase or updating you on the status of an order.
Protect your identity. Guard your Social Security, driverís license and bank account numbers when you shop online. Only share financial information via secure sites, never by email. Donít respond to unsolicited emails or telemarketing calls that ask for your personal information.
ěShoppers need to be vigilant whether theyíre on the web or at the mall,î Cooper said. ěYou keep your wallet in a safe place when you go shopping and itís just as important to guard your money and your personal information when you shop online.î
To check out a company with the Attorney Generalís Office or file a consumer complaint, call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina. Consumers can also file complaints online and get more holiday shopping tips at www.ncdoj.gov.