While many holiday shoppers plan to skip the malls on Black Friday, e-tailers are expecting a record breaking Cyber Monday—the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Leading consumer behavior analyst, Nielsen, estimates that 46 percent of consumers plan to shop from home on Dec. 2, 2013, prompting Better Business Bureau to caution consumers about the unique dangers of online shopping.
“Shopping online can be fast and convenient,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “But the anonymity of the Internet often makes it difficult to discern between what’s real and what’s bogus.”
Not only are gift-seekers shopping on computers, research indicates that more and more shoppers will be using tablets and smart phones make big purchases in 2013, so mobile security is imperative; read BBB’s August 2012 article, Don’t be Dumb With Smartphones.
Before jumping on hot Cyber Monday bargains, BBB advises shoppers to lookout for counterfeit websites and too-good-to-be-true deals.
- Free Gift Cards: Be wary of unsolicited texts or emails offering “contest winners” free gift cards. Responding to texts indicates that phone numbers are active and recipients will likely be spammed more.
- Bogus Coupons: Watch for fake downloadable coupons that could wreak havoc on computers and provide digital identity thieves with personal information.
- Exceptionally-Low Prices: Avoid too-good-to-be-true offers. Extremely low or unrealistic prices on in-demand or hard-to-find goods are a red flag that retailers may not be legitimate.
- Blurry or Distorted Photos: Ignore websites with lousy images. If images are unclear or skewed, it may indicate that they were hijacked and reused from other sources. Vendors of authentic products will provide clear, high-quality photos.
- Questionable Licensing: Shop elsewhere if background information cannot be verified. Reputable e-tailers will conspicuously display contact information and have the proper licenses for the state where they claim to be located.
- Unsecure Payment Forms: Don’t enter personal data or pay on for purchases on unencrypted Web pages; secured sites will display “https” in the address bar.
- Privacy Policies: Don’t be careless with personal information. Only do business with websites that clearly outline how personal information will be handled and avoid companies that will sell that information to third-parties. Privacy policies should be easily accessible from website landing pages.
- Unresolved Complaints: Be cautious of unanswered or unresolved complaints on BBB Business Reviews. Read reviews and steer clear of businesses with patterns of problems.
- Plastic: Use credit cards when making online purchase; if items are misrepresented or never arrive it is easy to dispute charges.
Be a smarter shopper, visit bbb.org for more holiday shopping advice.