Holiday shopping season expected to bring record sales

Online retailers have prepared for Cyber Monday for the shoppers who decide to skip the long lines, wacky incidents and protests that are associated with Black Friday. Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year, even has its own Twitter page. In 2011, shoppers spent $1.25 billion in purchases. ABC news reports that this year’s spending may reach $2 billion. However, there are many risks associated with the convenience of shopping online.

To avoid online shopping scams, the Better Business Bureau has offered the following tips:

1. 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, you can cancel and demand a refund. There is no general three-day cancellation period, but consumers have the right to reject merchandise if it is defective or was misrepresented.

2. Pay with a credit card – It’s best to use a credit card because under federal law you can dispute the charges if you don’t receive the item. You also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on a credit card, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the cardholder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it. Never wire money.

3. Shop on trustworthy websites – Start with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) to check on the seller’s reputation and record of customer satisfaction. Visit www.bbb.org to check out BBB Business Reviews of online sellers.

4. Beware of phishing – Legitimate businesses don’t send emails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the recipient into revealing financial information. If you receive such an email, call the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm whether or not there really is a problem with the transaction.

5. Protect your computer and mobile device – Computers and mobile devices should always be security software enabled, especially when shopping online. Make sure you have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a secure firewall.

6. Protect your personal information – Take the time to read the site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there isn’t one posted, it should be taken as a red flag that personal information might be sold to others without permission or possibly used in identity theft crimes.

7. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true – Be leery of extremely low prices on hard-to-get items; such offers may be too good to be true. When you think you’re saving money, you could actually be losing it all together if you’re dealing with a shady seller who never delivers your item.

8. Confirm your online purchase is secure – Shoppers should always look in the URL address box for the “s” in https:// and/or in the lower right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. If you have any doubts about a site, right-click anywhere on the page and select “Properties.” This will let you see the real URL, and the dialog box will reveal if the site isn’t encrypted.

9. Keep documentation of your order – After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by email. Save a copy of the webpage and any emails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.

10. Check your credit card statements often – Don’t wait for paper statements; check your credit card statements for suspicious activity by either checking statements online regularly or calling credit card companies directly.

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