Increase in online shopping may expose Canadians to more risk, warns BBB

September 28, 2010

Increase in online shopping may expose Canadians to more risk, warns BBB

With more Canadians buying more goods and services more often on the internet, the Better Business Bureau is offering tips for consumers to stay secure when shopping online.

“Shopping online is convenient, but not without its risks,” says Lynda Pasacreta, BBB President and CEO. “While the vast majority of people are thrilled with their purchases, others have learned these transactions between buyers and sellers can be hazardous.”

According to the latest Statistics Canada report, Canadians bought $15.1 billion worth of goods and services online last year. That’s up 17 per cent from $12.8 billion over the previous two years. And nearly 40 per cent of adults now shop online, up from 32 per cent two years earlier.

With so many Canadians turning on their computers for their shopping needs, the BBB offers the following tips to help prevent being taken in by unscrupulous online retailers, scammers and hackers:

Use trustworthy websites – Shoppers should start with BBB to check on the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction. Always look for a “trustmark” from BBBOnLine and click on that seal to confirm that it’s valid.

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.

Protect your personal information – BBB recommends taking the time to read the site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there isn’t one posted, it should be taken as a red flag that personal information may be sold to others without permission.

Trust your gut – Offers on websites 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.

Beware of phishing – Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an e-mail, BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the contact number on the Web site where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.

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, BBB recommends right-clicking 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.

Pay with a credit card – It’s best to use a credit card, because the shopper can dispute the charges if he or she doesn’t receive the item. Shoppers may also dispute 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 webpage and any e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.

Check your credit card statements often – Don’t wait for paper statements; BBB recommends consumers check their credit card statements for suspicious activity by either calling credit card companies or by checking statements online regularly.