According to the Better Business Bureau, online scams are predicted to increase this year due to product shortages and more consumers buying online. Forty percent of all cases reported to the BBB were attributed to product shortages and online shopping.
Product shortages lead to consumers being deceived because when there is a product shortage of an in-demand item, individuals are more likely to try their luck on dubious websites. Online shopping, though relatively safe, becomes risky when consumers navigate or are led away from known and trusted websites.
However, there are ways for consumers to shop online and remain safe. The following are a few tips to help you stay safe during the 2022 holiday shopping season.
Shop From Trusted Retailers
Consumers should always shop directly from reputable retailers or trusted online sites. As online scammers have been known to develop copycat sites using a retailer’s website with a one or two-character difference in the web address, consumers should avoid typing the retailer’s address directly into the browser bar. One typo by a consumer can take them to a fake site made to look just like the real one. When a consumer makes a purchase on an illegitimate site, they may unknowingly give their credit card information and other personal information to online scammers.
Shop Only On Secure Websites
When an individual is accessing a website and is alerted that the site is “not secure” it means that the page they are visiting is not providing an encrypted connection. Even if a consumer is not alerted, they may still be accessing an unencrypted site. Individuals should always verify that a website is secure by looking at the browser bar and making sure that the website address begins with “HTTPS” and not just “HTTP” (insecure). Furthermore, there should be a lock icon or SSL (secure sockets layer) in the browser bar. Website encryption ensures that personal information such as names, addresses, passwords, and credit card numbers remain masked. Encryption creates an extra layer of protection against cyber criminals.
Research New Businesses
On the Better Business Bureau’s website (www.bbb.org), consumers can search for businesses they have never heard of before they make a purchase. For extra security, consumers should also read online reviews for online retailers before visiting the website. Online reviews may also be fabricated, which is why consumers should educate themselves on how to spot fake reviews. For tips on how to spot fake reviews, visit www.bbb.org/all/spot-a-scam/how-to-spot-a-fake-review.
Stay Away From “Too Good To Be True” Deals
Advertisements and influencer posts across social media describing free or deeply discounted goods should be a red flag to consumers. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “consumers in 2021 reported losing about $770 million to fraud initiated on social media”, an 18-fold increase from 2017. To avoid falling victim to online scams of this kind, consumers should compare prices across several trusted retailers, and notice if a company is offering the same item at an unusually low price. If an online deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
Use A VPN To Browse And Shop Online
When individuals use public wifi at a cafe, park, or similar location, they may be unwittingly making their information vulnerable to cyber criminals. A VPN or virtual private network encrypts the information between the computer and a public server so that it cannot be intercepted by a third party. There are various VPN companies to choose from, so it’s important for individuals to download this service from a trusted source. CNET has compiled a list of their top picks for 2022 at www.cnet.com/tech/services-and-software/best-vpn.
Pay With A Credit Card Instead of A Debit Card
Credit cards often offer zero liability for fraud. This means that if a consumer’s credit card number is stolen and used to make unauthorized purchases, they may call the credit card company and report the incident, and the consumer will not be responsible for those charges. In comparison, a debit card gives a seller or scammer direct access to an individual’s bank account. It is often much more difficult to recover charges made on a debit card.
For added security, online shoppers may request a temporary card number linked to their credit card account from their credit card company to make a purchase. If an unauthorized purchase is later made with the same temporary number, it will no longer be linked to the account.
Stay Safe This Holiday Shopping Season
These are just a few tips to keep you and your family safe while shopping online during the holiday shopping season. It is important to always remain vigilant when making purchases and ensure that you are always taking the proper precautions.
At Panter, Panter, and Sampedro, a leading personal injury law firm, we’ve been protecting Florida’s families for over thirty years. We hope you have a safe shopping experience as you prepare for the upcoming festivities.