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Better Business Bureau: Be careful on Cyber Monday
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Online shopping tips

Before you enter personal information

-- Is your computer secure? Maintain up-to-date spam, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.

-- Is the website reliable? Look for the Better Business Bureau seal and other verifying symbols on retailer websites and confirm they are valid.

-- Does the site have a privacy policy? Know what personal information is being requested and how it will be used.

-- If a website has no privacy policy, consider it a red flag that personal information may be sold to others without permission.

When browsing deals

-- Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails can often sound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on hard-to-get items.

-- Go with your instincts. Don’t be afraid to pass up a “deal” that will compromise online security.

-- Don’t be lured into revealing financial information from an email solicitation. If you receive such an email, pick up the phone and call the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm there really is a problem with the transaction.

When paying

-- Confirm your online purchase is secure. Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying.

-- Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don’t receive the item.

-- Never wire money.

After paying

-- Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the Web page and any emails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.

-- Check your credit card statements often to monitor possible suspicious activity. Don’t wait for paper statements.

Know your rights

-- Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goods aren’t shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund.

-- There is no general three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject merchandise if it’s defective or was misrepresented.

-- The company’s policies determine if the shopper can receive a refund or credit.

Source: Better Business Bureau

Many people cite the pitfalls of jostling crowds as one reason to forgo a line at the door in favor of the Internet when shopping for deals after Thanksgiving.

But the Northeast Georgia chapter of the Better Business Bureau warns customers to protect themselves from harms specific to the online realm.

“Scammers know that Cyber Monday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year and they are looking for people who are shopping online to hack their personal and financial information,” the consumer advocacy group warned in a news release.

The end of the shopping weekend has been marketed as Cyber Monday for several years. Retailers advertise their Cyber Monday deals, accessible through their websites, as shoppers flock to the Internet looking for bargains on Christmas gifts.

To ensure money, and information, end up in the right hands, the bureau said to maintain an updated computer.

“A computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall,” the release states.

The bureau keeps a list of validated retail websites.

“Shoppers should start with BBB to check on the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction,” the release states. “Always look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized ‘trustmarks’ on retailer websites and click on the seals to confirm that they are valid.”

When it comes to checkout, the bureau recommends using credit cards over debit cards, as false transactions with credit cards are better protected by federal law and banks.

And while it can be time consuming, always read the fine print, the bureau said.

“BBB recommends taking the time to read the site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used,” the release states. “If there isn’t one posted, it should be taken as a red flag that personal information may be sold to others without permission.”

Sometimes it can just come down to instinct and a healthy dose of skepticism. Does a deal sound too good to be true? Maybe it is, the bureau warned.

“Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a ‘deal’ that might cost them dearly in the end,” the release states.

The bureau keeps other advice on staying safe online this holiday season, as well as reports on thousands of online retailers, at its website, bbb.org.

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