We know that shopping online can be scary, especially when you hear about cybersecurity and breaches. We have pulled together 4 tips to help you and your financial information stay safe when shopping online.
By Michelle R., contributing writer
1) Protect your identity and your cash
Online shopping has become a go-to for Americans to purchase the items they once bought in the store. It has also broadened shoppers’ horizons by providing access to products and services that may have been unreachable due to distance. As much as e-commerce has its glory, it is also a virtual phenomenon that has wiped many businesses out of their brick and mortar establishments. Not surprisingly, eMarketer recently reported that retail sales would double by 2020, which will surpass $692 billion dollars. With the flooding of shoppers on the web, it has become extremely easy for hackers and crooks to overtake people’s identities. Keep these tips in mind in order to make it tougher for identity thieves to cheat you out of your hard earned money:
- Create complex passwords (these include capital letters, numbers and symbols and aren’t easy to guess)
- Use secure networks
- Be mindful when asked to provide your personal confidential information (date of birth, social security number, and even home address, etc.)
2) If it sounds too good to be true, don’t believe it
There are people who really believe they are masterminds at conning people, and many get away with it. Reports of online shopping scams have involved incidents such as sales of fraudulent merchandise like an imitation Coach bag posed as authentic. The promise of a product or service that is contingent on upfront payment is another tactic commonly used by scammers. In those instances, customers send payment but later do not receive their items. Paying attention to the following tips can prevent you from getting scammed online:
- If the online store/merchant is not popularly recognized, get to know them better by reading online reviews on their website, on sites like Yelp, and asking friends. Googleing the company can also reveal helpful results about previous scams related to those stores.
- When shopping on marketplaces such as Craigslist, VarageSale and Wish watch out for scammers that offer to send checks. Do not cash any check that you receive without first inspecting it very well and making sure that payer’s name and check amount are accurate.
3) Know when to walk away
With prices and taxes continually rising, Americans always try to find a bargain. It’s all about the money for many consumers. Since online stores often cut overhead costs by not having physical locations, prices are usually lower. For this reason, Americans often take the risk of making online purchases from stores with affordable prices. Not surprisingly however, this is how online scam artists reel customers to their sites. As compared to 2015, online scammers have stolen upwards of $16 million dollars from consumers. Paying the lower price now, can cost you more in the long run. Following the steps below can help you avoid becoming a victim of internet fraud,
- Take the time to check out the website’s contact information and purchase policies. If contact information is missing or they have policies that do not make sense, this should a red flag. You may want to walk away from these types of stores.
- In an online marketplace setting, if a seller complicates the sale by drastically changing the agreement or adding several steps, there may be something fishy going on. Don’t give in to save a buck!
4) If you see something, say something
Millions of Americans are defrauded everyday by online scammers because those who experience it often do not know they are victims or they are unsure how to address it. Information is key. The more information that is made available to the public about the scam, the easier it will be to detect those incidences and catch the offenders. Give the following suggestions a try to help share awareness about internet fraud:
- Share your experiences with your friends and family to put them on alert about those scams. At the very least, this will make your loved ones think twice before they click to submit their orders.
- The U.S. government’s online safety department recommends that victims of internet fraud file a complaint with resources such as the Internet Crime Complaint Center, Econsumer.gov, or the Department of Justice.
Mougey, Kate. (2017). Sky’s the limit: U.S. e-commerce sales continue to climb.
The Style Avenue Blog. (2017). How to avoid online shopping scams.
Grant, Kelli. (2017). Identity theft, fraud cost consumers more than $16 billion.