For this week’s “Tuesday’s Tips,” the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection announces tips to help New Yorkers navigate the holiday shopping season.
As Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approach, this week’s tips are meant to empower New Yorkers with actionable fraud prevention tips, so they have greater awareness and control when shopping online this holiday season.
“During the busy holiday season, shopping online can be a convenient way to buy the perfect gift but unfortunately it’s also a way for holiday scammers to take advantage of consumers by stealing their financial or personal information,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “Don’t let cybercriminals steal your holiday spirit by scamming you out of your hard-earned money. Protect yourself by following our tips from the Division of Consumer Protection.”
New York State Police Acting Superintendent Dominick L. Chiumento said, “Now that online shopping has become standard practice, consumers continue to be vulnerable targets for cyber criminals who seek to steal their financial information. Just as the public must be aware of their physical surroundings, we remind consumers to be aware of the online sites that they visit as well. Make sure the sites you shop are secure and that your computer and electronic devices are up-to-date with current security software. Don’t share your passwords and make sure you close your browsers when you are done shopping. Lastly, check your financial statements regularly to make sure you are not a victim of fraud. Consumers need to be vigilant in protecting themselves when shopping online.”
Tips to Help Avoid Online Shopping Scams:
- Beware of fake websites: Unfortunately, fraudsters often imitate legitimate brands by creating fake shopping websites.Before you click, take the time to carefully read and review what you’re buying and from whom you’re buying it. There are a few ways to tell if it’s an imposter website. Here are a few to know:
- Domain name: If the domain name doesn’t match the official company name or website, it could be a scam site.
- Grammatical errors: Legitimate organizations spend resources to make sure their sites are error-free. If you notice obvious spelling mistakes or errors, that is a red flag.
- Be careful when shopping on social media:Scammers are using real store names and logos to advertise fake clearance sales on social media feeds. Pay attention to brand imposters and fake retailers with fake consumer reviews. The best way to detect a fake trader or social media online shopping scam is to search for reviews before purchasing. Don’t purchase a product directly from the social media site; open a new browser and make your purchase through the retailer’s website. Avoid placing orders on these copycat sites for products that will never arrive.
- Beware of third-party seller scams:Use caution on trusted sites that host items from third-party sellers. If redirected from a trusted site to a third-party site, read the seller’s policies, review ratings, read consumer comments, and most importantly, do a broad internet search before making your purchase. Trusted retailers who host third-party sellers do not warranty their sales, thus you could get a substandard product or no product at all when you take the risk and purchase from an unknown third-party vendor.
- Do your research if you want to try a new site or retailer. Performing a broad internet search will provide you with important feedback from other customers.
- Learn how to spot a fake review:Watch out for fake reviews online. One red flag to look for is one-sided reviews with no specific details. Real reviews often reflect customer experiences that are balanced, descriptive and subjective. Also look for multiple reviews that look very similar and posted during the same timeframe. This is a sign that the reviewers are either copying information or were all written by the same person.
- Read product specifications. Online marketing is geared to get you to buy, so it is important to understand the product you are purchasing and the terms of the sale to ensure you are getting what you want.
- Beware of nonexistent return policies. If you notice that the return or refund policy of an online retailer is vague, missing or exceedingly limited, shop elsewhere. If you can’t return the item you’re buying for a full refund if you’re not satisfied, consider skipping it.
Tips for Using Credit Cards Online:
- Check the website’s encryption; It’s easier than you think. Before entering your credit card information, make sure that the website’s address begins with “https” and that there is a closed lock on the website address bar or unbroken key symbol in the lower portion of your window.
- Don’t keep the credit card on file for future purchases. Provide your credit card number each time you make a purchase.
- Designate one credit card and one email address for online shopping. This will allow for easy review of purchases and provide protection in case of a dispute.
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.
Follow the New York Department of State on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and check in every Tuesday for more practical tips that educate and empower New York consumers on a variety of topics. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to your email or phone here.
For more consumer protection tips, follow the Division on social media at Twitter: @NYSConsumer and Facebook:www.facebook.com/nysconsumer