BBB’s Tips For Shopping Safely Online

After Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, many shoppers go online to check out Cyber Monday specials. According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers expect to do almost half of their holiday shopping online this year. Cyber Monday, the Monday after Black Friday, has grown popular among consumers in recent years, as they look to take advantage of post-holiday sales some retailers offer. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) offers their top ten tips for people looking to shop online, be it on Cyber Monday – November 30 – or throughout the busy holiday season:

1. Protect your computer – Your computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.

2. Stick to trustworthy websites – Research the seller’s reputation and track record for customer satisfaction at bbb.org. Look for BBB’s seal and other widely-recognized “trust marks” on retailer websites. Always remember to click on the seals to confirm that they are valid and check out customer reviews online, including those offered by Better Business Bureau.

3. Protect your personal information – Take the time to read the privacy policy of websites you visit and understand what personal information is being collected and how it will be used. If you don’t see a privacy policy posted, be aware your information may be sold without your permission.

4. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true – Offers found on less-traveled websites and in unsolicited emails sometimes advertise suspiciously low prices. When visiting a website, look for misspellings and grammatical errors, as these are signs the site might be fraudulent. Trust your instincts and be leery of unsolicited emails, as they may contain viruses or malware. Don’t be afraid to pass up “great deals” that might wind up costing you dearly instead of saving you money.

5. Beware of phishing – Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming problems with an order or a past transaction to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an email, BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the retailer you dealt with or your credit card provider to get to the bottom of the matter. Stay calm, don’t panic and always be protective of your personal and financial information.

6. Confirm your online purchase is secure – Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying.

7. Pay with a credit card – It’s often best to use a credit card, because under federal law, the shopper can dispute the charge if he or she doesn’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card or merchandise they receive is damaged.

8. Keep documentation of your order – After completing the online order process, there should be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by email. Save a copy of that as well as any emails for future reference and as a record of your purchase.

9. Check your credit card statements often – Don’t wait for paper statements; BBB recommends consumers check their credit card statements for suspicious activity by checking statements online regularly or by calling their credit card companies if fraud is suspected.

10. Know your rights – By law, a seller should ship your order within the time stated in its ads or over the phone. If the seller doesn’t promise a time, you can expect the item to be shipped within 30 days. If the seller is unable to ship within the promised time, they must notify you, provide a revised shipping date and offer you the chance to cancel for a full refund or accept the new shipping date.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.