BBB offers 10 tips for online shopping on Cyber Monday [Opinion: The Arena]

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Cyber Monday

So you think you’re really clever, because you had the good sense to avoid the Occupy Black Friday mobs and the acrid smell of pepper spray in the Yuletide air?  Decided that the safest route would be to do your hedonistic seasonal shopping online this year?  Well, don’t be so smug:  many hidden terrors await you out on the internet.

Buy Online2.jpgCyber Monday—the Monday after Thanksgiving—has officially replaced Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving—as the most popular day to shop for the holidays. Shopping online means avoiding the crowds, but it also opens the buyer up to attacks from scammers and hackers. In order to fight these online Grinches, the clever folks over at Louisville’s Better Business Bureau are recommending 10 tips for staying safe when holiday shopping online.

Every year, more people head online rather than to the mall to get their holiday shopping done. According to a preliminary shopping survey, conducted for the National Retail Federation by BIGresearch, up to 152 million people plan to shop Black Friday weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), higher than the 138 million people who planned to do so last year. According to the survey, 74 million people say they will definitely hit the stores and another 77 million are waiting to see if the bargains are worth braving the cold and the crowds.

grinch.gifBBB suggests taking the necessary precautions to avoid fraudulent websites, scammers, and other Grinches who would love to ruin your holidays. BBB recommends the following top 10 tips for shopping online this holiday season to help fight unscrupulous online retailers, scammers and hackers:

1. Protect your computer – A computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.

Cyber-Monday2.jpg2. Shop on trustworthy websites – Shoppers should start with BBB to check on the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction. Always look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trustmarks” on retailer websites and click on the seals to confirm that they are valid.

3. Protect your personal information – BBB recommends taking the time to read the site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there isn’t one posted, it should be taken as a red flag that personal information may be sold to others without permission.

Buy Online.jpg4. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true – Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a “deal” that might cost them dearly in the end.

5. Beware of phishing – Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an e-mail, BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.