More and more people are turning to the Internet to do their holiday shopping. Online shopping has its benefits – no traffic jams, no long lines, no holiday songs getting stuck in your head – but it also has dangers. With the increase in online shopping, there has been a significant increase in Internet scams and identity theft.
"Online shopping is more popular than ever before. While it offers consumers great convenience and access to hard to find gifts, it creates an environment where, if not careful, you open yourself up to the risk of credit card fraud and identity theft," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "No matter the time of year, but even more so at the holidays, it is critical consumers take measures to protect themselves online."
Attorney General Kilmartin offers the following online shopping and internet safety tips to consumers to get the best experience during this holiday season:
Protect your computer – Make sure your computer has the most recent updates for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.
Shop on trustworthy web sites. While it may be tempting to buy the "hot toy of the year" from a website that you've never heard of before, the chance is greater that it is a scam.
If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. 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.
Beware of phishing – Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the "buyer" into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an e-mail, call the retailer directly and ask. Do NOT reply to the email and do NOT provide confidential or identifying information, like your Social Security Number or your credit card.
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 – It's 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 card, and many card issuers have "zero liability" policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.
Understand the return policy. Just like a brick and mortar retailer, online retailers may charge "restocking fees" or exorbitant shipping and handling fees.
Check your credit card statements often. By the time you get the credit card bill in January, a thief may have already burned through your limit.
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. Otherwise, it's the company's policies that determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.
For more tips to protect consumers this holiday season, please visit www.riag.ri.gov.