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Tis the Season to be Cautious Shopping Online

The holiday season is upon us and many people will choose to shop online in search of great deals or to avoid long lines. Unfortunately, this is also the time unscrupulous websites may attempt to scam you by selling counterfeit products, stealing your credit card information or failing to deliver anything. Here are some of the dangers of shopping online and the ways to protect yourself:
Online Stores
A scammer can easily set up a website that appears to be a legitimate store by simply copying the look of other, well-known stores. Once these fake websites are online, scammers prey on people who are looking for the lowest price possible. Shoppers often start by searching for products they’d like to buy, and then add search words such as “cheapest” or “lowest price.” In return, the search engine will present many, even hundreds of websites selling the item. Some of these websites may be fake.
Indicators of fraudulent websites include:

  • No phone number to call for sales or support-related questions.
  • The website domain name is different than the domain name it uses for email addresses or other contact information.
  • The website uses poor grammar or spelling.
  • The website is an exact replica of a well known website you have used in the past, but the website domain name or the name of the store is slightly different.

If some aspect of the site strikes you as odd, take a closer look at it. For instance, call the phone number listed in the “contact” section of the website to confirm that the number is valid. Also, type the store’s name or URL into a search engine and see what other people have said about the website in the past. If you are still not sure if the website is legitimate, do not use it.
Your Computer Security
You want to ensure the computer you are using for online purchases is secure. An infected computer could allow a cyber criminal to steal your username and password for online stores, credit card and banking information and other sensitive details. Make sure the computer you are using is connected to a trusted network and installed with the latest security updates and anti-virus software.
Your Credit Card
You should review your statements at least once per month to identify suspicious charges. If you believe fraud has been committed, such as never receiving your package even though you have tried to contact the store multiple times, or you see odd charges to your credit card, call your credit card company right away and explain the situation.
For more information on online security, check out our videos on cyber security or visit Good Security Habits for related topics.