NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving when online retailers offer exclusive promotions, is gaining momentum every year as shoppers forgo Thanksgiving and Black Friday deals and turn to the convenience of online shopping. Unfortunately, not all advertised deals are what they claim to be, and some websites may be phony or tools for scammers to take advantage, cautions Attorney General James D. "Buddy" Caldwell.
"With the increasing threat of cyber scams and other online shopping fraud, it is important for consumers to practice safe online behavior not only on Cyber Monday, but every day," said Attorney General Caldwell. "There are simple steps consumers can take to avoid scams and protect their wallets while shopping online."
Here's a list of tips to help shoppers stay safe this holiday season:
Avoid online financial transactions while using public wireless networks. Do not conduct any transaction that involves personal, financial or credit card information while using an open and unsecured Wi-Fi connection. Unsecured connections are common in public spaces such as stores, cafes, and coffee shops. Be careful not to shop, conduct business, or send sensitive or personal information out on these networks because identity thieves often stake out open networks seeking victims.
Look for a secure checkout. Make sure all online purchases are made on a secure website. To confirm a site is secure, check the URL address and make sure there is an "s" in https://. Then, check the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, right-click anywhere on the page and select "Properties." This should show the actual URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal whether or not the site is encrypted.
Pay with a credit card. Purchases made with a credit card provide the most protection. Using a credit card usually allows shoppers to dispute unauthorized charges or charges for items not received.
Watch out for look-alike websites. In a scam known as "cybersquatting," crooks steal or slightly alter the website address of a well-known company to launch a copycat site that looks exactly like the real thing. The primary function of these fraudulent websites is to collect your credit card information in order to steal your identity or to sell fake or inferior counterfeit goods.
Be wary of too-good-to-be-true contests and prize promotions. Consumers should be suspicious of any email, message, or post on social networks promoting giveaways or contests that seem too good to be true, such as free high-value gift cards, tablets, and smartphones. These "contests" are often scams designed to bilk consumers out of money and/or to collect consumers' personal information for sale to other scammers.
Read the fine print. Broadly worded promotional offers and advertisements often mislead consumers into paying full price for items they believed were on sale. Consumers should carefully examine Internet deals by reading any and all fine print in the promotional materials, identifying the exact brand and model number on sale.
Keep records. Always print and save records of your transactions.