Unfortunately, online shopping opens possibilities for scammers and fraudsters lurking in cyberspace. That doesn't mean, however, you shouldn't shop online. Instead, follow these tips for staying safe as you shop online.
Online Shopping Tips
Beware of great deals that show up in your e-mail, via text, or through social media. While they may sometimes be legit anything that sounds too good to be true, probably is too good to be true.
Stick to reputable sites. When in doubt, check the Better Business Bureau or do a Google search for independent reviews of the sites.
Check the web addresses of sites before entering any information. Three things to look for:
HTTPS at the beginning of the address on checkout pages to indicate the site has a secure address;
Look for spoof sites that have small alternations in spelling to look like a real one;
Sites that redirect you to another page. (Did you catch the redirect on this page from http://www.shoppingsafely.org to the address in your browser bar now?)
Create usernames and passwords for shopping accounts that are different from your financial accounts and e-mail.
Check out as a ‘guest’ if you are only planning to shop at a retailer one time for a specific gift, and do not store your card number on unfamiliar merchants’ sites or ones or that you do not use often.
Consider using a prepaid card to manage your budget and avoid debt while shopping online or as an alternative to credit and debit cards to minimize your risks.
If you are worried about packages being stolen or other disruptions preventing packages from getting to the recipient, consider gift cards as an alternative.
Gift Card Safety
Gift cards are safe and convenient payment and gift options—evident by their widespread popularity and use. According to the National Retail Federation, gift cards have been the most popular gifts in America for 13 years in a row—in addition to being popular incentives and rewards. According to Fiserv, 64 percent of people even buy gift cards just to spend on themselves! People love giving, receiving, and using gift cards in physical or digital (“egift”) form, but unfortunately so do fraudsters. When shoppers don’t know the right prevention techniques, criminals can abuse gift cards like debit cards, credit cards, or checks.
To help you avoid scams and have safe, positive gift card experiences, the RGCA recommends that you:
Check physical gift cards for package tampering before you buy them. If the scratch-off material covering the card’s PIN number is uncovered, pick another card and show the questionable card to a store associate.
Buy gift cards directly from retailers, trusted sources and known brands--especially when you buy online.
Store your gift cards securely. Keep physical cards in a wallet, purse, or other secure place. If the card has a PIN covered by scratch-off material, leave the scratch-off material in place until the PIN is required. Keep egifts secured in an account or mobile wallet that is password-protected with a strong password and multi-factor authentication (MFA).
Never share gift card account or PIN numbers with people you don’t know.
Send physical gift cards via trackable shipping methods and egifts via a secure email or mobile programs that are password protected.
Double check the recipient’s e-mail address or mobile number before sending an e-gift card.
Keep an eye on your statements and transaction history. With the various data breaches, you could find suspicious activity as you monitor your acvounts. if that happens, there are things you can do to protect yourself and minimize losses.
What to do if You Have a Problem
Call the card issuer. On the back of every card, there is the contact information for the bank, credit union, or retailer that has issued your credit, debit, prepaid, or gift card. Many cards have zero liability guarantees to protect you in the case of fraud. When you notice something is wrong, report it to the issuer to protect yourself and potentially let them know that fraudsters are attacking their systems.
Report a crime. If you or someone you know has been a victim of an online scam, you can report the crime to the FBI through the Internet Crimes Complaint Center. Make sure to gather as much information as possible about what happened and what you may know about the possible scammer.
If you think you’ve been scammed, you also can contact the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or via this toll-free number: 1-877-FTC-HELP.