Savvy online shoppers know that Black Friday is only the beginning when it comes to saving money. Cyber Monday, another of the year’s biggest shopping days, is all about competitive deals on tech and comes just three days after Black Friday.
As with any online shopping holiday, there are pros and cons. On the one hand, you’ll discover deals on tech that you won’t find any other time of the year. On the other hand, scammers are taking advantage of bargain hunters. Tap or click here to see some of this season’s scams targeting Amazon shoppers.
If you want to stay safe when shopping on Cyber Monday and beyond, the Better Business Bureau has several tips to keep in mind. Some of these might seem like no-brainers, but scammers are willing to throw everything at you until something sticks.
Don’t fall for scams. Use these 10 clever shopping tips
Each year, the BBB documents online shopping scams to help warn customers that they may be at risk. If you plan on doing your shopping online this holiday season, keep these factors in mind the next time you see something that doesn’t sit right:
- Beware of false ads and phony websites. If you see an ad, deal or online store that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers rely on fake ads and websites to trick victims into sharing personal and financial data. Stick to familiar online stores and always check the URL of a website before exploring it. If it looks off from what you know (Amazoncom.com vs. Amazon.com), leave it.
- Shop with reliable sellers on secure sites only. Be cautious about any online stores or websites you aren’t familiar with. The BBB advises looking up the store on BBB.org to see ratings and reviews. You should also check for a lock-shaped icon in the upper-left corner of the address bar. This icon means the web page is secure and that the information you type is encrypted.
Tap or click here to see why encrypted websites are so important.
- Keep your antivirus software up to date. Check that you’re using the latest versions of any antimalware programs you have installed. These programs can protect you from non-secure websites and phishing pop-ups. Tap or click here to see our favorite free online scanners.
- Price check before you buy. You can use several websites and services to compare prices without falling down rabbit holes or ending up on unsafe websites. Tap or click here to see some of our favorite ways to save.
- Take advantage of rewards and loyalty programs. Some credit cards, like American Express, offer cashback and rewards programs that can save you money. Amazon will even let you shop using your AmEx rewards points. If you shop with your points, you won’t risk losing actual money if something goes wrong.
- Use your credit card versus your debit card. Credit cards aren’t connected directly to your bank account like your debit card is, and their limits can prevent scammers from spending too much. You’re safer if you shop with your credit card online.
- Learn the details behind every return policy. When you buy from an online store, always check the return policy before checking out. Be aware that some stores may not offer returns for “Final sale” or “closeout items.” If you’re buying gifts, ask for gift receipts so your loved ones will have options if their gift doesn’t work out.
- Watch out for phishing scams. Scammers are primarily relying on fake websites, emails and text messages to trick victims this year. If you get an unsolicited message about a delivery or item you’re shopping for, avoid clicking any links from within the message. Check with the actual courier or online store to get the real story.
- Report scams to protect others. Anyone who discovers an online scam is encouraged to report it to the BBB online scam tracker for others to reference. You can also alert the FBI and report scams and cybercrime to your local field office (www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices) or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov).
- Never share any important information. This should be common knowledge, but it’s always worth repeating: Never share personally identifying information with anyone online. No seller should have a reason to ask for your SSN or bank account number.
I fell for a scam. What are my options?
If you think you’ve fallen for an online shopping scam, don’t panic. There are several ways you can still protect your data and money from harm.
- Scan your computer with an antivirus program to make sure you don’t have a Trojan hiding anywhere. Tap or click here to see free scan options for your PC or Mac.
- Use two-factor authentication to protect your online bank accounts. Tap or click here to find out how to enable 2FA on your favorite sites.
- If you shared any personal data like your Social Security number, consider freezing your credit to protect your score. Tap or click here to see how to set up a credit freeze.
- Contact your bank or financial institution and notify them that you may be at risk for fraud.
Online scams are tough to spot by design, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you were fooled. Now that you know what to look for, you can have a safer time shopping this holiday season.
Please share this article with your friends and family to make sure they know what to do, too.