Do Your Holiday Shopping Online with Confidence

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Better Business Bureau

The holiday season is the busiest shopping time of the year. This can lead to crowded malls with long lines and packed parking lots. Luckily, there’s another option. These days you can do all of your holiday shopping online without having to leave your couch or comfy pajamas. This is especially useful for those who travel over the holidays and don’t have room in their luggage for bulky gifts.

Online shopping is a growing trend: according to a Google Post Holiday Shopping Intentions Study, in 2015 a whopping 40% of holiday shopping happened online. It’s not hard to see why – the convenience of 24/7 shopping on your computer or phone combined with great deals and the ability to do research and comparison shop on the spot is hard to resist.

Online shopping has many benefits, but there are also risks involved. So far in 2016, more than 1,700 online purchase scams have been reported to BBB Scam Tracker – and the median loss is $129. Your Better Business Bureau suggests following these seven tips to avoid an online shopping mishap this holiday season:

1. Do your research. Before buying, look up the business at <> and read its BBB Business Profile for 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 many others did before you.

2. Beware of “too good to be true” deals and deceptive ads. Don’t believe every holiday sale ad you see. You’ll probably see ads online or receive email offers from lesser-known brands 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. It’s better to find the website directly through a search engine or look up the company on <> 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 at <> 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. Look for the small closed lock icon and other trust marks. Don’t give away any unnecessary personal information, and be certain that you’re giving your payment information through a secure website. 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. 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 through email. Keep documentation of all confirmation pages, emails, and any other records. Print these out to be extra safe.

7. Carefully read the product details. Many people think they’re buying one thing, but receive another because they didn’t read the fine print of the product deals. Make sure you’re getting the size, color and other specifications that you want.

Follow these tips to feel confident shopping online this holiday season. Check out BBB’s Digital IQ at <> to learn more about how to be a savvy consumer on the Internet and test your own Digital IQ.