Today is Cyber Monday - the Monday following Thanksgiving - a day millions of shoppers have been waiting for. A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation showed that 107 million consumers did their shopping online last year. Another survey conducted by com.Score reported that in 2010, $1.028 billion was spent on Cyber Monday, marking the first day in U.S. retail history to surpass the billion-dollar sales level. Recent statistics gathered by Drop Down deals indicate that six out of ten consumers say they will do most of their holiday shopping online this year. BBB warns consumers to be on high alert for unscrupulous retailers, fake websites, and bogus online deals this Cyber-Monday.
Many consumers are comfortable shopping online and simply don’t consider the threat of identity theft or unscrupulous retailers during the holiday season. E-commerce has provided an opportunity for many businesses to thrive, but it has also created a ripe environment for scammers to set up shop online and start ripping people off.
BBB advises consumers to use extreme caution when making purchases online this year and provides the following tips for safe online shopping.
Protect your computer – A computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a secure firewall.
Be on the lookout for fly-by-night websites – Shoppers should start with BBB to check on the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction. Look for the BBBOnLine logo and click on that seal to confirm that it’s valid.
Confirm your online purchase is secure – Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, right-click anywhere on the page and select “Properties.” This will let you see the real URL (Web site address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted.
Use a credit card – It’s best to use a credit card, because under federal law the shopper can dispute the charges if he or she doesn’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.
Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by e-mail – BBB recommends saving a copy of the Web page and any e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase. Check your statements and reconcile all receipts to your credit card statements regularly.
Trust your gut – Offers on Web sites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true. Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a “deal” that might cost them dearly in the end.
For more advice on staying safe online this holiday season, and to see reports on thousands of online retailers, go to www.bbb.org. To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline: (903) 581-8373.