For the first time, online is the most popular shopping destination this year, cited by 59 percent of consumers, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation.
If you’re shopping online during Cyber week or anytime during the holidays, here are tips for safe online shopping:
- Do your research. Read reviews by typing the name of the product or company into a search engine along with words such as “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” Be sure to read a few reviews and not rely on just one source.
- Know the policies. Find out what the refund/exchange policies are, and if there are any charges, such as shipping costs or restocking fees, if you return a product. Be sure you have the retailer's physical address and phone number in case you have problems with the purchase.
- Avoid clicking links in emails. Scammers often use email links to obtain your money and personal information. If an unexpected email promises awesome online deals, don’t click on the embedded links. Check out the company first, confirm its web address, and type it in yourself.
- Use secure checkout. When making a payment online, order from a secure server by looking for signs the website is secure. Examples include "https" – the "s" stands for secure – in the address, and the padlock symbol.
- Pay by credit card when possible. Credit cards give you extra protections, including the right to dispute charges and withhold payment during an investigation. Don't wire money or send cash. Legitimate sellers never demand that consumers wire money as payment.
- Be cautious of shopping in public Wi-Fi hotspots. Transactions made while you are connected to these spots can often be unsecure. Instead, wait until you are in a secure area to make your purchase and remember to log out of banking websites when you are finished using them.
- Keep records. Print or save records of online transactions until you receive the goods you paid for. Keep the product description and price, receipt, return policy, and any emails related to your purchase. Keep good records and save your receipts for returns and exchanges. Whether you're ordering by mail, phone, or online, it is important to keep detailed information about the transaction, including your order number, shipping costs and dates, warranties, and refund and return policies.