Better Business Bureau offers tips for Cyber Monday shoppers

CONYERS — After fighting crowds and rushing around from store to store on Black Friday (and Thanksgiving) to get good deals, many consumers look forward to shopping online in the comfort of their homes on Cyber Monday. Although online shoppers will not have to deal with traffic and hordes of other customers, there is another concern for those who take part in Cyber Monday — scammers.

Scammers know that Cyber Monday is one of the biggest online shopping days of the year, and they take advantage of it by trying to hack shoppers’ personal and financial information. The Better Business Bureau has created the “Top 10 Online Shopping Tips” to help consumers avoid being the victims of online scammers.

• Protect computers. Make sure that computers have the most recent updates for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a secure firewall.

• Shop only on trustworthy websites. Check with the BBB about a seller’s or retailer’s reputation and records. Also, look for the BBB seal of approval or other “trustmarks.” Click on the seal’s icon to ensure that it is valid.

• Protect personal information. Read the site’s privacy policy to find out what personal information is needed for purchasing, and how it will be used. If the site does not have a privacy policy, consider that as a red flag. Never give out Social Security numbers.

• Beware of deals that sound too good to be true. Some websites and unsolicited emails have offers that sound excellent, yet are unrealistic. It is best for shoppers to go with their instincts on this one. Giving in to deals that sound too good to be true can end up costing consumers much more than the price they thought they would be paying.

• Beware of phishing. Some online shoppers will receive an email stating that there is something wrong with their purchase or account, and it will require them to give out some form of personal information to correct it. However, legitimate businesses do not send out these emails. If consumers do receive such an email, the BBB recommends calling the number from the website through which the purchase was made to verify that there is a problem.

• Confirm that online purchases are secure. Before paying for something, shoppers should look for the “lock” symbol in the lower-right corner of the screen or on the address bar. If it does not appear, the BBB recommends right clicking on the page and selecting the “properties” option. This will allow shoppers to see the site’s URL and whether or not the site is encrypted.

• Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, shoppers can dispute the charges if an item purchased with a credit card is not received. Also, try to shop locally and never wire money to faraway locations.

• Keep documentation of orders. After buying, the shopper will usually be taken to a confirmation page, or receive a confirmation email. Print out the confirmation or save it to your computer as a record of purchase.

• Check credit card statements often. Look up credit card statements frequently after making an online purchase to ensure that there is no suspicious activity on your card.

• Know consumer rights. If your online purchase has not arrived within 30 days after buying, shoppers can demand a refund. Consumers can also get a refund if the product is defective or misrepresented. Read all of the company’s policies before confirming a purchase.

For more information on shopping online this holiday season and to see reports on thousands of online retailers, visit bbb.org.