Cyber Monday: Tips for Staying Safe and Saving Money

Technology
Photo Credit: Better Business Bureau
Photo Credit: Better Business Bureau

Rebecca Harpster
Golden Gate Better Business Bureau

Imagine accessing all of the deals and savings of Black Friday without having to leave your comfy couch and face crowds. If this sounds like a dream come true, you’re not alone! According to the National Retail Federation, 78 million Americans plan to shop online this Cyber Monday. Unfortunately, scammers and unethical businesses may use the popularity of this shopping holiday to take advantage of consumers.

Although online shopping has many benefits, it’s important to watch out for scams. According to the BBB Risk Index (bbb.org/riskreport), online purchase scams are the fourth riskiest scam to consumers. In 2016, more than 2,700 online purchase scams were reported to BBB Scam Tracker – and 74% of targets lost money!

Additionally, consumers nationwide filed a whopping 14,500 complaints against online retailers with BBB in 2016. Common complaints include paying for items but never receiving them, deceptive “free trial” offers, and issues returning products and receiving refunds.

Your BBB suggests following these eight tips to avoid an online shopping mishap this Cyber Monday:

  1. Do your research. Before buying, look up the business at bbb.org and look over its BBB Business Profile to see its rating, complaint history, and customer reviews. Researching a company and reading reviews before making a purchase can save you from making the same mistake others did before you. Consider buying from trustworthy BBB Accredited Businesses.
  2. Beware of “too good to be true” deals and deceptive ads. Don’t believe every Cyber Monday ad you see. You’ll probably see ads online or receive email offers advertising suspiciously low prices. Make sure the site is professional, and free of spelling and grammatical errors. Better safe than sorry; it’s better to pass up on a “great deal” than pay for a product and either never receive it or realize the advertisement or product details were misleading. Take your time and read the fine print before submitting your order.
  3. Beware of phishing. Don’t open any links or attachments from unsolicited emails – even if the advertised Cyber Monday deals seem irresistible. It’s better to type the URL directly in to your search bar, or look up the company on bbb.org and follow the link in its BBB Business Profile. Also, be on the lookout for phishing emails and websites that are impersonating real businesses. Hover over links and examine logos carefully. Remember that impersonation is easy; anyone can take a company’s logo and products and set up a fake website using a legitimate domain. If you suspect you’re being phished, report it to BBB Scam Tracker to help warn others.
  4. Be secure. Check the site’s security settings and privacy policy and understand them. Make sure the URL starts with “https://”, where the “s” stands for secure. Also, look for the small closed lock icon in the address bar. Don’t give away any unnecessary personal information, and be certain that you’re giving your payment information through a secure website. If the site shows a BBB Seal, click on it and make sure it links to the correct BBB Business Profile to confirm its authenticity. Protect your computer as well: make sure you have firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software. Run virus scans regularly and make sure your software is up-to-date.
  5. Pay with a credit card. A credit card may offer more protection than other payment methods; you can dispute a charge if you don’t receive the item. Additionally, consider it a red flag if the site will only let you use less-traceable payment forms.
  6. Document everything. Keep documentation of all confirmation pages, emails, and any other records. Print these out to be extra safe.
  7. Read the return, cancellation, and refund policies very carefully. Make sure to look at the site’s contact page and FAQ to see what methods of contact are available should an issue arise. Consider it a red flag if they don’t have a toll free phone number and can only be contacted via email.
  8. Carefully read the product details. Many people think they’re buying one thing but receive another because they didn’t read the fine print. Make sure you’re getting the size, color and other specifications that you want.

Follow these tips to feel confident shopping online this Cyber Monday. Report and research online shopping scams to bbb.org/scamtracker to help warn others.

You can reach your BBB at info@bbbemail.org or (510) 844-2000, or by visiting goldengate.bbb.org.

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