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Post date: December 1 2014

A.G. Schneiderman Issues Online Shopping Tips In Advance Of 'Cyber Monday'

Schneiderman: As Holiday Shopping Season Kicks Off, Online Shoppers Should Be Wary Of Scams And Insecure Websites

NEW YORK – In advance of Cyber Monday – consistently one of the most popular days of the year for online shopping – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued tips for consumers who plan to shop online.  Last year, consumers spent almost a record $2.29 billion on Cyber Monday, and sales are expected to exceed that this year. Unfortunately, not all advertised deals are what they claim to be, and some websites may be fake or tools for scammers.  

“As the holiday shopping season kicks off and more consumers plan to shop online, there are simple steps you can take to avoid scams and protect your personal data,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Consumers should know how to spot fake websites and deals that are too good to be true.” 

In an effort to help consumers shop safely online, Attorney General Schneiderman issued the following tips:  

  • Shop only on secure Internet connections: Do not conduct any transaction that involves personal, financial or credit card information while using an open and unsecured Wi-Fi connection. Unsecured connections are common in public spaces such as transportation hubs, municipal hotspots, and in stores and coffee shops. Be careful not to shop, conduct business, or send sensitive or personal information out on these networks because identity thieves often stake out open networks seeking victims. Shopping and other activities that involve sensitive information may be performed safely on password-protected wireless networks, virtual private networks (VPN), or on hardwired Internet connections. 
  • Only process payment on HTTPS web pages: When entering payment information online you should verify that HTTPS is in your address bar to protect yourself from identity thieves and cyber criminals. URLs that begin with https:// instead of the standard http:// are secured by SSL, an internet security protocol. Web pages served over SSL help protect you by encrypting sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, during the transaction.  
  • Do not be tricked by confusingly similar website and domain names: Pay particular attention to your retailer’s URL when shopping online. Scammers use variants of a known company’s Internet address to try and lure users into visiting fake websites. They often target users through email or social media.  Avoid clicking on links from email or social media sites.  Watch out for websites with URLs that differ slightly from those of legitimate online retailers, and also links that appear genuine but direct your browser to a completely different URL. To ensure safe shopping online type the URL of your desired retailer directly into your web browser — and watch for typos.  
  • Protect yourself by using credit cards:With the advent of point-of-sale malware and rampant data breaches, identity thieves are now more sophisticated and dangerous than ever. If you are going to make purchases online, you can best protect yourself from the risks of identity theft and fraud by using credit cards. Credit cards generally offer better purchase protection and fraud dispute resolution than other methods of payment. Debit cards link directly to your bank account, potentially threatening your entire account balance.  Some banks also offer temporary credit card numbers with a set purchase maximum, which may be useful for some transactions or some consumers.   Remember that credit cards charge high interest rates so it is best to use credit cards for only those purchases you can afford. 
  • Be wary of too-good-to-be-true contests and prize promotions: Consumers should be suspicious of any email, messages, or posts on social networks promoting giveaways or contests that seem too good to be true, e.g., free high-value gift cards, tablets, and smartphones. These “contests” are often scams designed to bilk consumers out of money and/or to collect consumers’ personal information for resale. Genuine sweepstakes and contests are commonplace on the Internet; however, you should avoid any contest or promotion that requires you to pay money or to perform any sort of financial transaction. Also, think twice before participating in promotions that require entrants to register with multiple third-party websites; often these are ploys to build marketing lists. Promotions that require users to provide more than simple contact information may even be phony or run by scammers who resell consumer information to collect referral fees! 
  • Read the fine print: Broadly worded promotional offers and advertisements often mislead consumers into paying full price for items they believed were on sale.  Consumers should carefully examine Internet deals by reading any and all fine print in the promotional materials, identifying the exact brand and model number on sale. Consumers should also avoid bait-and-switch advertisements or promotions that lure consumers with basement prices that are not guaranteed to be in stock. Fine print stating that quantities are limited is a tell-tale sign of this bait-and-switch tactic. 
  • Watch out for hidden shipping costs: Internet shoppers will undoubtedly find great deals this holiday season. It is common practice for Internet retailers to advertise prices that do not factor in shipping and handling. This makes the Internet retailer’s pricing appear lower than what the consumer will actually pay. This holiday season consumers should be sure to examine all shipping and handling costs before committing to any online purchases. When all costs are considered, what you may have thought was a great Internet deal may be more costly than your local retailer.