Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has 10 practical tips to help you watch your wallet, shop wisely, and protect your personal information online.
2. Know the seller. Anyone can set up an online store or create an app. Before you make a purchase from a seller you do not know, visit Be InfORmed, the Department of Justice’s online database of consumer complaints. The database – available online at www.oregonconsumer.gov – will show if other Oregonians have filed complaints about a seller and how the seller responded. Also, confirm the seller’s physical address and phone number in case you have any problems or questions.
3. Stay away from pop-up ads and email deals. Phishing pop-up ads and emails can look similar to those sent by top retailers. Many of these unleash viruses or spyware on your computer when you click on them. Ignore or delete these emails, no matter how good a deal seems. And make sure you have the latest firewall and antivirus software installed on your computer to protect against any online attacks.
4. Review shipping, return and exchange policies. Make sure that a retailer has not changed its shipping, return and exchange policy on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Some retailers declare that sales on these days are final and items purchased cannot be returned or exchanged. Also, confirm the seller does not charge a restocking fee on a returned item or charge excessive shipping and handling fees in an effort to recoup some of the cost on sale items.
5. Keep a paper trail. Print and save records of every online transaction you make, including the product description, price, copy of your receipt, and any correspondence with the seller. These records will be important if you have a problem with the seller, product or service.
6. Be skeptical of offers that sound too good to be true. Scam artists often lure shoppers to their websites or apps with outrageously low prices or offers of free products. Before you buy, shop around to get an idea of how much other retailers are asking for the same or similar items. Even at steep discounts, retailers tend to price similar items within a general price range. Remember: “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
7. Stick to secure websites. If you shop online, always verify that the website you are purchasing from is secure. You are especially vulnerable when shopping on a smartphone. Mobile browsers have a much shorter address field, and as a result, you may not see the full URL on your phone. This makes it harder to spot a scam. Make sure that the website has a valid “HTTPS” connection with a lock symbol, not “HTTP,” which is vulnerable to attacks.
8. Use plastic wisely. Consider using a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards make fraud easier to discover because they give shoppers more time to notice unauthorized charges, notify their credit card company and promptly report any unauthorized transactions. If you notice unauthorized charges, notify your credit card company of the issue, and have them removed from your bill.
9. Be careful when downloading apps. Bogus holiday deal apps made by scammers can fool you into typing in your credit card information, while other apps may feature malware that can steal your personal data or lock your smartphone until you pay a ransom fee. To stay safe, research who developed the app, and only download apps from official app stores like Apple and Google.
10. Report fraud. If you have a problem with an online purchase or charge, try to work it out with the seller first. If you cannot resolve the problem, contact the Oregon Department of Justice online at www.oregonconsumer.gov or by phone at 1-877-877-9392.