More consumers are expected to do their holiday shopping online
this year � about 47% compared with 44% in 2010,
according to a National Retail Federation survey. And about half of
those surveyed who own smart phones and 70% who own tablets will
use their devices to research items and make purchases.
10 Online Shopping Traps That Catch Even Smart Shoppers
The Internet makes it easy to compare prices, shop quickly and
avoid the crowds. But it can also put you at risk of becoming a
victim of identity theft if you don't take the proper precautions.
Security expert Jon Heimerl says he doesn't expect scammers to be
out in greater numbers this year. However, he says more consumers
may become victims simply because more people will be using the Web
to do their holiday gift buying � especially those who
aren't accustomed to shopping online and aren't aware of the
So Heimerl suggests that you follow these do's and don'ts of
online shopping to protect your personal information and reduce
your risk of becoming a victim of a scam or identity theft:
DO: Select your own seller.
If you use a search engine to find out which online retailers might
have an item you're looking for, don't click on any of the links on
the search result page. As many as three results per page are
poisoned results (that is, fraudulent sites that likely will misuse
any personal information you enter), says Heimerl, who is director
of strategic security for Solutionary. Instead, go directly to a
retailer's site or use a price-comparison site, such as
. Even if you're using a site that you think is legitimate, look
for a security label, such as VeriSign or Cybertrust, and for
in the URL on pages that prompt you to enter personal
DO: Shop at home.
Never make purchases online using a public Wi-Fi connection.
Hackers can tap into Wi-Fi connections at hot spots, such as coffee
shops, airports and hotels, to capture your personal information.
Also, never use a public computer to shop or check accounts
DO: Pay with plastic.
Make sure you use a credit card when making purchases online. If a
hacker steals your debit card information and uses it to make
unauthorized purchases, you must report any misuse within two days
of learning of the fraud to get the same $50 limited liability you
would get with a credit card. Miss that deadline but report your
loss within 60 days and your liability is limited to $500. After 60
days, your liability is unlimited. That said, if you've been a good
customer, most banks will credit your account within a couple of
days after you report the fraud.
DO: Check your credit-card bill.
If you do a lot of shopping online, review your credit card
accounts regularly to make sure there aren't any unauthorized
purchases. Heimerl recommends that you print out your receipts or
put e-mail receipts into a separate folder so that you can check
your statements against your receipts. He uses only one of his
credit cards for online purchases, so he was able to catch an
unauthorized purchase quickly when another of his credit cards was
used to buy something on the Web.
DO: Shop smart with your smart phone or tablet.
These devices make it easy to shop on the go, redeem coupons and
compare prices in stores. But you could be putting your personal
information at risk if you aren't careful. For example, before you
download shopping applications, check what sort of access they want
to your phone, Heimerl says. Opt for ones that require fewer
permissions. For example, Heimerl says he avoids apps that want
access to his contacts because he doesn't want a third party
calling them or flooding their phones with ads. And if you use your
smart phone or tablet to shop online, click "no" when asked whether
you want a site to remember your password. Otherwise, if anyone
gets your phone, he'll have easy access to your accounts.
DON'T: Fall for bogus bargains.
DON'T: Trust every deal you see on social-networking
Twitter and Facebook can be smart ways to stay on top of deals. But
note that the URLs on Twitter (and sometimes Facebook) are often
shortened, so you won't know whether you're landing on a legitimate
retailer's site by clicking the link. One option is to use a deal
notification you see on Twitter as a tip, then research the details
on your own.
DON'T: Wire money to pay for an item.
If you purchase an item from an online auction site, such as eBay,
and the seller asks you to wire your payment, don't do it. Heimerl
says wiring money is inviting yourself to a fraud situation -- you
have no way to get your money back if the item you purchase never
arrives. Pay with a credit card so you can dispute the charges if
you don't get what you paid for.
DON'T: Assume an escrow service is always safe.
If the seller is pushing you to use a particular escrow company to
handle a transaction, be suspicious because it might be part of a
scam. You can verify a company's legitimacy by checking with state
regulators, or ask to use an escrow company of your choosing, such
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