Tips to avoid getting scammed on Cyber Monday

WASHINGTON — If you didn’t get in enough shopping over the long holiday
weekend,
you’ll be happy to hit more sales on Cyber Monday.

The Monday after Thanksgiving is serious business. Last year, consumers
clicked
their way to more than $2 billion of Cyber Monday purchases online.

But amid the good deals, the scammers are in wait, too, and that’s led New
York
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to draw up a list of tips to help
consumers
fight off the crooks:

  • Shop only on secure Internet connections: Do not conduct any
    transaction that involves personal, financial or credit card information while
    using an open and unsecured Wi-Fi connection. Unsecured connections are common
    in
    public spaces such as transportation hubs and municipal hotspots, and in
    stores
    and coffee shops.

    Be careful not to shop, conduct business or send sensitive
    or
    personal information out on these networks because identity thieves often
    stake
    out open networks seeking victims. Shopping and other activities that involve
    sensitive information may be performed safely on password-protected wireless
    networks, virtual private networks (VPN) or on hardwired Internet connections.

  • Web of Trust

    Check out this cybersecurity tool to keep track of whether a site you visit is safe or not: mywot.com

  • Only process payment on HTTPS web pages: When entering payment
    information online you should verify that HTTPS is in your address bar to
    protect
    yourself from identity thieves and cyber criminals. URLs that begin with
    https://
    instead of the standard http:// are secured by SSL, an Internet security
    protocol.
    Web pages served over SSL help protect you by encrypting sensitive
    information,
    such as credit card numbers, during the transaction.
  • Do not be tricked by confusingly similar website and domain names:
    Pay
    particular attention to your retailer’s URL when shopping online. Scammers use
    variants of a known company’s Internet address to try and lure users into
    visiting
    fake websites. They often target users through email or social media. Avoid
    clicking on links from email or social media sites. Watch out for websites
    with
    URLs that differ slightly from those of legitimate online retailers, as well
    as
    links that appear genuine but direct your browser to a completely different
    URL.
    To ensure safe shopping online, type the URL of your desired retailer directly
    into your web browser — and watch for typos.
  • Protect yourself by using credit cards: With the advent of point-
    of-
    sale malware and rampant data breaches, identity thieves are now more
    sophisticated and dangerous than ever. If you are going to make purchases
    online,
    you can best protect yourself from the risks of identity theft and fraud by
    using
    credit cards. Credit cards generally offer better purchase protection and
    fraud
    dispute resolution than other methods of payment. Debit cards link directly to
    your bank account, potentially threatening your entire account balance. Some
    banks also offer temporary credit card numbers with a set purchase maximum,
    which
    may be useful for some transactions or some consumers. Remember that credit
    cards charge high interest rates, so it is best to use credit cards for only
    those
    purchases you can afford.
  • Be wary of too-good-to-be-true contests and prize promotions:
    Consumers
    should be suspicious of any emails, messages or posts on social networks
    promoting
    giveaways or contests that seem too good to be true, such as free high-value
    gift
    cards, tablets and smartphones. These “contests” are often scams designed to
    bilk
    consumers out of money and/or to collect consumers’ personal information for
    resale. Genuine sweepstakes and contests are commonplace on the Internet;
    however,
    you should avoid any contest or promotion that requires you to pay money or to
    perform any sort of financial transaction. Also, think twice before
    participating
    in promotions that require entrants to register with multiple third-party
    websites; often these are ploys to build marketing lists. Promotions that
    require
    users to provide more than simple contact information may even be phony or run
    by
    scammers who resell consumer information to collect referral fees!
  • Read the fine print: Broadly worded promotional offers and
    advertisements often mislead consumers into paying full price for items they
    believed were on sale. Consumers should carefully examine Internet deals by
    reading any and all fine print in the promotional materials, identifying the
    exact
    brand and model number on sale. Consumers should also avoid bait-and-switch
    advertisements or promotions that lure consumers with basement prices that are
    not
    guaranteed to be in stock. Fine print stating that quantities are limited is a
    tell-tale sign of this bait-and-switch tactic.
  • Watch out for hidden shipping costs: Internet shoppers will
    undoubtedly
    find great deals this holiday season. It is common practice for Internet
    retailers
    to advertise prices that do not factor in shipping and handling. This makes
    the
    Internet retailer’s pricing appear lower than what the consumer will actually
    pay.
    This holiday season, consumers should be sure to examine all shipping and
    handling
    costs before committing to any online purchases. When all costs are
    considered,
    what you may have thought was a great Internet deal may be more costly than
    your
    local retailer.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up