10 tips for online shopping safety this Christmas season

Cyber Monday is the online version of Black Friday — each year on the Monday following Thanksgiving, millions of Americans flock to the Internet for big-time Christmastime bargains.

While online shopping is becoming more and more commonplace in general, the World Wide Web can be a daunting place of credit card numbers, questionable websites and privacy concerns. In the spirit of the season, the Better Business Bureau has offered 10 online shopping tips to help protect consumers on Cyber Monday, throughout the holiday season and all year around.

• Protect your computer: Make sure you have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

• Shop on trustworthy websites: Start with the BBB to check on the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction.

• Protect your personal information: Take time to read websites’ privacy policies and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used.

• Beware of deals that sound too good to be true: Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails can often offer extremely low prices on hard-to-get items; don’t be afraid to pass up a “deal” that may cost you dearly in the end.

• Beware of phishing: Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming problems with an order or account to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information. If you have made a purchase, call the company to make sure there is actually a problem.

• Confirm your purchase is secure: Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in “https://” and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying.

• Pay with a credit card: Under federal law, shoppers using a credit card can dispute the charges if he or she doesn’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card.

• Keep documentation of your order: Save or print a copy of the purchase confirmation website or email.

• Check your credit card statements often: Don’t wait for paper statements. Check online regularly.

• Know your rights; Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days.