Holiday season is here, and that means that tempting sales are now in full swing. Over the past few years, more people have started shopping online than in stores.
Shopping online makes our holiday season more efficient, but can also open us up to risks like identity theft if we don’t follow some basic guidelines. Before making any major purchases, the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) wants consumers to take a step back, and make sure those purchases are secure.
“The holidays are a great time for so many families in our state,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull, adding, “We want to make sure we do what we can to keep it that way. That’s why we’re urging consumers to stay safe while they do their holiday shopping this year so they can continue enjoying the time they have with their families instead of recovering from a scam, fraud or identity theft.”
Stay Safe Online:
- Check the URL. Always use websites that start with “https.” That indicates it’s a secure place for you to enter your information if you’re making a purchase. Also check that a URL is actually directing you to the website you think you’re visiting so you don’t unknowingly give your information to a scammer. Type the URL into your web browser yourself instead of relying on links in emails or text messages.
- Check your passwords. Your password doesn’t need to be changed every day, but it should be unique, memorable and complex, so that you remember what it is, and it’s more challenging for others to guess.
- Keep your devices updated. Make sure you keep your computer’s software and antivirus up to date so that you know your computer is operating at its highest capacity, and you can learn about any problems quickly.
Other tips to make your experience easier:
- Clear your cookies. Your cookies record items you’ve added to online shopping carts, remembering data you’ve entered and what links you’ve clicked on. By clearing them, you can clean up your browsing experience to make it easier to search for something new.
- Use a private browser. If you want to limit new advertisements based on your search and click history, using a private browser or search window may help you.
- Clean out your cart. If you share a computer, make sure you clean out your shopping cart so that you don’t ruin a surprise for a friend or family member.
- Read reviews. A lot of us get pop up ads on Facebook or on our web browser for items we’re interested in, or have previously searched. Those ads may or may not be from reputable or legitimate companies. It’s also helpful to google a company name with “scam” to see if others have the same questions you do.
No matter how you purchase an item, you should always check the terms and conditions, any warranty plan and return policy, just in case something happens.
If you feel you’re a victim of a scam, purchased a product that was misrepresented or have done business with someone who didn’t fulfill their contract, you should file a complaint with DCP.