Shoppers planning to hit the Internet today for Cyber Monday Christmas shopping deals are being warned to watch out for scammers.
The expected surge in online shopping traffic is likely to draw cybercriminals out of the woodwork.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula urge consumers to protect their wallets by taking some safety precautions when shopping online throughout the holiday season.
"Cyberthieves know what the hot gift items are this year, and they target their scams accordingly," said Sandy Chalmers, Division Administrator of Wisconsin Trade and Consumer Protection. "These crooks post fake contests on social media sites, publish dangerous links, and send texts and emails to get shoppers to reveal personal information or download malicious software onto their devices."
"Before you check out, know exactly what items you are purchasing, when the items should be delivered and who to contact if they do not arrive when expected." Chalmers said in a statement. "If that information is not clearly stated on the website, consider shopping elsewhere."
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula offer following tips for online shoppers:
- Make sure a website is legitimate before ordering. Check for the company's name, physical location and contact information. Beware of deals that seem too good to be true, particularly from websites with which you are not familiar. ID thieves can create websites that mimic a legitimate company's site. Do not trust a site based solely on its appearance.
- If you find an item you want to purchase, make sure you are using a secure site before you enter any personal or banking information secure sites start with "https" rather than "http" (the added "s" stands for "secure").
- To help protect your home connection from identity thieves and hackers, update your device's operating system and anti-virus software and install a firewall in your online setup before you even start your web shopping.
- Pay by credit card for extra protection. Consumers have the right to dispute charges if they find errors in their credit statement and report them to the credit card company within 60 days of receiving the statement.
- Keep a paper trail. Print or save records of online transactions, item descriptions and copies of emails sent between you and the seller. Carefully review credit card statements after the holidays to look for unauthorized charges.
- Beware of deals that sound too good to be true. Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a "deal" that might cost them dearly in the end.
- Beware of phishing. Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the "buyer" into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an e-mail, BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.
- Check your credit card statements often. Don't wait for paper statements; consumers should check their credit card statements for suspicious activity by either calling credit card companies or by checking statements online regularly.
- Know your rights. Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goods aren't shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund. There is no general three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject merchandise if it's defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, it's the company's policies that determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.
For additional information or to file a consumer complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at datcp.wisconsin.gov, send an e-mail to email@example.com or call the Consumer Protection Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.
To contact the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, visit www.easternmichiganbbb.org, call (248) 223-9400, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The mailing address is: 26777 Central Park Blvd., Suite 100, Southfield, MI 48076-4163.
Finally, if you are concerned about shopping online, try shopping at a local retailer. Many, if not all, are more than willing to accommodate special orders.