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BBB tips for safe holiday shopping online: How to prevent identity theft

Better Business Bureau

Better Business Bureau warns that the holiday season provides many opportunities for scammers to steal your identity when you’re shopping online.

Forty-four percent of holiday shoppers make purchases online. Every year, scammers devise online schemes to trick online shoppers into divulging personal information such as credit card numbers.

“Identity theft can happen to you whether you’re shopping online or shopping at the mall,” said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. “However, it is critical for you to take specific steps to protect yourself from high-tech, identity thieves.”

If you are shopping online, BBB recommends that you:

  1. Protect your computer – Your computer should have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a secure firewall.
  2. Use trustworthy websites – You can check online retailers out at bbb.org.
  3. Protect your personal information – Read the website’s privacy policy so that you understand how your personal information will be used. If the site does not have a privacy policy, the site may sell your personal information without your permission.
  4. Beware of phishing scams– Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the buyer into revealing financial information. If you receive this type of e-mail, you should call the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.
  5. Confirm your online purchase is secure – You should only enter personal information such as credit card numbers in secure, encrypted websites. Look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying.
  6. Pay with a credit card – When you are shopping online, you should pay with a credit card because credit cards offer you the most buyer protections. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you do not receive the item. You also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on your credit card. Many card issuers have “zero liability” policies which will protect you if your credit card number is stolen.
  7. Beware of ‘GREAT’ deals – If you find a website offering deals that seem too good to be true, they probably are.  You may get a knock-off product, a product that is not the brand you ordered, or you may get nothing at all.
  8. Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online order process, you should get a confirmation of your order. BBB recommends saving the confirmation for future reference and as a record of the purchase.
  9. Check your credit card statements often – Don’t wait for paper statements to arrive in the mail a month later. BBB recommends that you check your credit card statements and banking account online for suspicious activity at least once a week.
  10. Know your rights – Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the products you ordered aren’t shipped on time, you can cancel your order and demand a refund. There is no general three-day cancellation right, but you do have the right to reject merchandise if it’s defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, it’s the company’s policies that determine if you can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.

For more information, please visit bbb.org or call (704) 927-8617 or toll-free in N.C. and S.C. at 1-877-317-7236.

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