During the holiday season it’s never uncommon for inboxes, social media feeds, and online browsing sessions to be bombarded with promotional offers from a variety of online retailers. Promising to save you money and valuable time, the lure of these are often hard to resist. While the majority of these are clearly legitimate, you should nevertheless be aware that this period is also a prime time for the perpetrators of all manner of fraudulent schemes. With this in mind, please consider the following tips:
- Know the seller and the item. Put the company or product name in a search engine, along with “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” Read the reviews. Be sure you can contact the seller if you have a dispute.
- Avoid clicking links in emails. If an unexpected email promises awesome online deals, don’t click on the embedded links as they could be part of a phishing scam – pushing you to a fake website or an online form that is designed to capture your personal information or credit card information. Always check out the company first, confirm its web address, and type it in yourself.
- Pay by credit card. Credit cards give you extra protections – like the right to dispute charges and temporarily withhold payment during an investigation. Whatever the deal might be, never mail cash or wire money to online sellers. And if a company insists you only pay with a gift card, it’s probably a scam.
- Ensure happy returns. What are the return or exchange policies of the website? Is there a re-stocking fee?
- Have a safe checkout. Look for a URL that starts with https. (The ‘s’ stands for secure). If there is no ‘s,’ if you’re asked to email payment information, or if you have any concerns . . . leave the site.
- Keep records. Print or save records of online transactions until you get the goods. Keep the product description and price, receipt, return policy, and any emails related to your purchase.