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BBB's 10 Tips for Safe Online Shopping

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According to a National Retail Federation survey, nearly 80 million consumers plan to click to shop on Cyber Monday – Nov. 28 this year. Not all online retailers are reliable, however. Better Business Bureau has 10 tips for consumers to help them shop safely online throughout the holiday season.

“Many consumers believe shopping online saves time and money, plus it allows them to send gifts directly to family members around the world,” said Michelle Corey, St. Louis BBB President and CEO.

“BBB reminds shoppers to be careful: The internet is rife with scams that can separate shoppers from their money or steal their personal information. Some companies may also promise delivery by the holidays, but may not actually be able to deliver gifts in time.”

Shoppers can prepare themselves for online shopping by watching ads and browsing for the items they’re seeking in advance. Many online sites already have begun advertising Cyber Monday deals. Unless you’re educated, it can be hard to tell whether an online deal actually will save you money. Read a site’s policies for returns and understand shipping schedules before you enter your credit card number.

BBB’s 10 tips for safe online shopping:

1. Protect your computer. Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly.

2. Check a site’s security settings before entering financial data, such as a credit card number. If the site is secure, the URL (web address) on the payment page should start with ”    https://.”    

3. Shop trustworthy websites: Look for BBB Accredited Business seals on websites and click to confirm that they’re valid. BBB dynamic seals will take you to a site’s BBB Business Profile. You also may find reviews at bbb.org.

4. Protect personal information. Read a site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. Don’t enter that information on unsolicited emails. If a site lacks a privacy policy, it could be a red flag that the site could sell your information without your permission.

5. Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may display free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs, or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.

6. Beware of phishing. Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming problems with an order, account or a package to lure the buyer into revealing financial information. If you receive such an email, BBB recommends that you pick up the phone and call the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm a problem.

7. Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don’t receive an item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are any unauthorized charges on the card, and many card issuers have zero-liability policies if someone steals and uses your card number. Check your credit card statement regularly for unauthorized charges. Never wire money to someone you don’t know.

8. Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page of an order or emails confirming the order until you receive the item and are satisfied.

9. Obtain a tracking number for shipments. If you need the product before the holidays, find out when the seller intends to ship it and, if possible, how it will be shipped. The tracking number can help you find a lost order.

10. Before you do business with a charity or company, check its BBB Charity Review or BBB Business Profile at bbb.org or by calling 888-996-3887.

(unedited news release)

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