UPDATE- More than 130 website domains that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise to unsuspecting customers have been seized today by ICE.
The Better Business Bureau is warning people to be wary that while they are shopping, thieves may be trying to scam them.
The BBB has these tips:
- Protect your computer: A computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a secure firewall.
- Shop on trustworthy Web sites: Shoppers should start with BBB to check on the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction. The BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trustmarks” often are on retailer Web sites, and users can click on the seals to confirm they are valid.
(Click here to see a report on Consumer Reports’ ratings of the best and worst online shopping sites. Note: Zappos.com, L.L. Bean and Costco were among the best.)
- Use strong, unique passwords: Create strong passwords for all online accounts and include letters, numbers and symbols. Longer passwords are more secure and harder to crack.
- Only connect to legitimate Wi-Fi networks: Before connecting to a network and starting online shopping, verify that the Wi-Fi network being used is from a legitimate service. Do not connect to random networks. It increases security risks.
- Beware of deals that sound too good to be true: Offers on Web sites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. Consumers always should follow instincts and not be afraid to pass up a deal that might cost them dearly in the end.
- Beware of phishing: Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure buyers into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an e-mail, BBB recommends calling the contact number on the Web site where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.
- Confirm that online purchases are secure: Before paying, shoppers always should look in the web address box of an Internet browser for the “s” in “https://” and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol. If there are any doubts about a site, BBB recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page and select “Properties” or “View Page Info.” This will display the real URL (Web site address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted.
- Pay with a credit card: It is best to use a credit card because, under federal law, the shopper can dispute the charges if he or she doesn’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit cards, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which cardholders pay nothing if someone steals a credit card number and uses it.
- Keep documentation of your order: After completing online orders, BBB recommends saving a copy of order confirmation pages and e-mails as a record of the purchase.
- Check your credit card statements often: Don’t wait for paper statements. BBB recommends consumers check credit card statements for suspicious activity by either calling credit card companies or by checking statements online regularly.
- 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 is defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, it’s the company’s policies that determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.