After the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone, many American consumers will turn their attention to holiday shopping. The Monday following Thanksgiving – this year, that is Dec. 2 – is known as Cyber Monday for the high volume of online sales that day.
According to the National Retail Federation, more than 129 million Americans shopped online on Cyber Monday last year. Internet retailers will rake in an estimated $82 billion during November and December as the popularity of online sales continues to increase.
Consumers have turned to shopping on their computers, tablets or phones in order to avoid the hassle of crowded parking lots and long lines at retail stores. However, with the convenience of online purchasing comes some risk. Therefore, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert to ensure safe and easy online shopping.
"Consumers should carefully guard their sensitive personal and financial information at all times, but especially when on the Internet, where identity theft is possible and some websites may not be secure," McDaniel said. "Fortunately, there are some simple tools consumers can use to safely shop for gifts online."
McDaniel said consumers who make online purchases should visit websites of reputable retailers that they know and trust. When consumers are asked to provide sensitive financial information such as a credit card number, McDaniel encouraged consumers to make sure to provide such data only where appropriate, such as on an order form. No information should be disclosed unless consumers know who is collecting it and how the collector will use it. Consumer should remember never to reveal website, social media or email account passwords to anyone, even someone purporting to be from an e-commerce provider or Internet service provider.
Also, the Attorney General warned against downloading files or clicking on links that are sent via email or posted on social media sites by unfamiliar entities. Even if asked to click on a link to win a prize or receive a gift card, consumers should not do so. Such actions may be part of a scheme to steal information or expose systems to malicious hardware that could harm a computer.
Other tips to remember when shopping online:
• Make sure retailers are using secure websites for any transactions. The letters "https" at the start of a website URL address indicates whether information is secure during transmission. Consumers’ devices should be equipped with software that encrypts, or scrambles, and purchase information sent over the Internet. Updated versions of browsers typically have the best encryption capabilities.
• Make purchases with a credit card. Under federal law, consumers can dispute charges if necessary. Many credit-card issuers have policies in place that protect the cardholder in the event a card number is stolen and used.
• Read privacy policies on all websites before providing any personal information. Those disclosures will indicate how information will be used and whether it will be shared with other entities. Privacy policies can typically be found at the bottom of a website’s homepage.
• Know about refund and exchange policies of online retailers before buying. Some retailers may charge additional shipping or restocking fees if an item needs to be returned or exchanged.
• Review monthly credit card and bank statement for any errors or unauthorized purchases, and keep records of all online transactions.
For more information, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-482-8982 or visit the Division’s website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org.