Scores of consumers are attracted to the 24-hour convenience of the Internet, and that’s not all, says Sandy Chalmers with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, “Retailers are constantly coming out with different, new, exciting types of online deals for holiday shoppers.”
Chalmers cautions consumers to be even more wary online than if doing business in the bricks and mortar stores, where you can see the clerk face-to-face. “You never really know who’s on the other end of the transaction when you’re conducting your business online.”
This year more than half of smartphone owners will be using that device to compare prices and make a purchase online, according to the National Retail Federation. Chalmers warns that some holiday shopping apps actually contain malicious software that can spy on every key-stroke and get access to your personal information. She suggests downloading apps only from official app stores.
Also, an online company should be well-known and reputable. And, Chalmers says, look at the URL, starting with HTTP. “Look for the ‘s;’ that means secure. And most browsers will have a padlock that’s locked. That means you’re in the middle of a secure transaction.”
Chalmers offers consumer protection tips: Email is not secure for credit card numbers; use search engines to check for scams and coupons; check shipping, handling and return fees; read the fine print; and keep a paper trail. Also, Chalmers tells holiday shoppers to beware of offers on social networks that promise a free iPad or airline tickets in exchange for personal information.
For more information or to file a complaint, visit the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the toll-free number at 1-800-422-7128 or email at [email protected].