Cyber Monday Safety Tips
With the COVID-19 pandemic entering it's ninth month in the U.S., shoppers are staying home more than ever this holiday season. Online scammers are ready and waiting for unsuspecting victims. Here are five tips to keep your information safe while shopping online, and what to do if your information is compromised.
Online Shopping Safety Tips
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Who doesn't love a great sale? Feel free to cruise the great deals online, but read them with a skeptical eye. "Designer" handbags at a fraction of the MSRP? A brand-name tool set for less than the cost of a screw? If the prices seem unrealistically good, you may want to reconsider the purchase. If you decide to roll the dice, make sure to get the seller's information and return policy in case there is a problem.
Beware of fake websites and email phishing scams. These techniques are favored by sophisticated scammers. You may get an email from a retailer that looks legitimate, inviting you to take part in a huge sale. When you click the link, however, you may be taken to a fake site that encourages you to enter your credit card information to make a "purchase." Always double check the URL in your browser window, and read carefully for spelling errors-- make sure you're buying at Walmart.com and not Wallmart.com, for example. To see if an email is legitimate, click 'reply' and take a look at the reply email address. If it goes to somebody's personal email address like gmail, hotmail or yahoo, it's a scam.
Protect your personal information. If you save your credit card and other personal information on your computer, or on retailer's websites, make sure that you choose strong passwords and keep access out of reach. Also beware of "shoulder surfers" if you are entering passwords or credit card numbers in public locations.
Only shop on secure sites. A secure site will have a lockbox icon in the URL field of your phone or computer's internet browser. A site should always be secure before you enter your credit card information. No icon? Skip it!
Vet your seller's social media. Instagram, TikTok and Facebook are great ways to learn about new and interesting products. However, they are also a playground for scammers who seek to take advantage of the platforms' "buy it quick" features. Before your buy, click through to the seller's social media profile, visit their website and perform an internet search. If the seller has been scamming people, you may discover some negative reviews that suggest you shop elsewhere.
What To Do if You've Been Scammed Online
File a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Include as much detail as you can about how you found the seller, what you attempted to purchase, and other important details.
If your credit card or social security numbers may have been compromised, put a credit freeze on each of your credit reports as soon as you can. This will block the opening of any new accounts.
Monitor your credit reports. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report once a year at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/. Other monitoring services, like Credit Karma, allow you to monitor your credit more frequently.
Dispute fraudulent charges with your bank or credit card company. Most banks and credit card companies offer fraud protection for unauthorized purchases. If you see these charges on your statements, contact your bank or credit card company immediately and notify them that the charge was not authorized. If these charges wind up on your credit report balances, you may also file a dispute with the credit bureaus. If the information is not corrected, you may be entitled to pursue a legal claim.
Happy deal hunting, and have a safe and joyful holiday season!