Top 10 Scam Prevention Tips for Cyber Monday

It’s that time of the year again. The weekend of Cyber Monday is the largest revenue generating weekend for both in-store and online retailers. Don’t let the hustle and bustle distract you from putting your guard down; this is a perfect opportunity for scammers to target you, your identity and your wallet. Follow these 10 simple tips to help have a safe and fraud free shopping experience this holiday season.

  1. Don’t use a debit card.   Use a credit card or Paypal account instead. There are several advantages to credit cards including the fact that the card holder is rarely liable for fraudulent charges.  Debit cards on the other hand are not covered by the same protections and potentially leave your entire bank account exposed if the scammer obtains enough of your personal information.  If you must use a debit card, only do so on the most trusted sites.
  2. Only use secured wifi when shopping online or on your mobile. Make sure that all your security software, including anti-virus, firewalls and anti-spy software, is up to date. When you’re shopping using public wifi, be sure it is secured via a virtual private network (VPN).
  3. Know the refund policies. Because it’s difficult to read your loved ones minds (or waistline after a year of not seeing each other), Returns are more common during the holiday season.  Companies are required to provide easy to find and clearly stated refund policies.  Be sure to read and understand these terms before making a purchase and account for the time it will take for the return to process.  If there are serious time restraints, let the company know and maybe they will be able to expedite the payment return.
  4. Avoid giving credit card information over the phone.  There are more stringent laws surrounding online purchasing versus verbal purchasing. Furthermore, all you need is one dishonest person to write down your information and use it later to ruin your credit, rack up debt and cause hours of time resolving the issue.  Always avoid on the phone purchases when possible.  Just have them send you an invoice or direct you to an online site.
  5. Look for signs of secured connection. SSL technology is simple but powerful encryption technology that allows you to transfer information across the internet in a secure and private way.  Two signs that you are utilizing a secured connection are the presence of https:// at the beginning of the stores domain and the presence of a green padlock on the left of the address bar.  Just look at our address to see what we mean.
  6. Use a separate email account for shopping. To avoid getting spam to your everyday account, open a separate email for the sole use of shopping. There are email providers such as Vaultlet Mail, SecureMail, and ProtonMail, that offer encrypted mail protecting personal information when you send it to retailers.
  7. Shop directly on retailers’ site vs. a search engine. Going to the retailers site itself will eliminate fictitious companies advertising a deal deal that a credible website may be promoting. If you do find a deal that can’t be passed up, be sure to research it via search engines like google, bing or yahoo to see if anyone has reported a scam.
  8. Read the fine print. The fine print of many purchases affect the terms for things such as warranties and layaways.  You could miss a payment schedule and forfeit previous payments or be obligated to purchase something else as part of a deal. You could take a tag off and void the warranty.  Be sure to read everything before you make your purchase.
  9. Check the privacy policy with all your vendors. Make sure that your retailer has a privacy policy and that they cannot sell or provide your information to anyone else. If they do have the ability to pass your information on, be sure you have the option to decline.
  10. Check your credit card statements early 2016 for fraudulent activity. Even after you take all the measures you can to secure your purchases, there is still a chance your information has been compromised. Be sure to review your credit card statements closely after Cyber Monday and especially during the first few months of 2016. This is when fraudulent transactions are more likely to be made. Contact the retailer and your credit card company immediately if you see such transactions.

Using the aforementioned tips will minimize the possibility of online scams. Be careful and smart. Happy shopping, and remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.