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Tips for Safe Online Shopping

Bank of Luxemburg wants to help ensure your holidays stay happy. Unfortunately, thieves see the holidays as an opportunity to try to steal your money through fraudulent schemes online. A report by Norton says people who were victims of online shopping scams lost an average of $1,500 during the holiday season.


How to protect yourself from online fraud

To safeguard your holiday spending and protect against fraud, follow these tips:

  • Know the advertiser. Some of the best deals are only available online but be careful. It’s easy for a fake site to mimic a famous retailer’s website, so make sure you shop with a legitimate site. If the site is missing contact information, that is a red flag.

  • Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “HTTPS://” and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page. 

  • Be a savvy shopper. When shopping online, take your time and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for the return policy; although many online orders can be returned for a full refund, others have restocking fees. Some items cannot be returned; know before you buy.

  • Protect personal information. Read a site’s privacy policy and understand what personal data is requested and how it will be used. If a site doesn’t have a privacy policy, that’s a big red flag that it may be a scam.

  • Think before you click. Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites. Many sketchy retailers advertise great deals or trendy clothing that doesn’t match the promotional hype.

  • Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Offers on websites and unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs, or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print. If it is too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Beware of phishing. Phishing emails can look like a message from a well-known brand, but clicking on unfamiliar links can place you at risk for malware and/or identity theft. One popular scam claims to be from a package-delivery company with links to “tracking information” on an order you don’t remember making. Don’t click!

  • Shop with a credit card. In a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protection; it’s easier to dispute charges you didn’t approve or get your money back if there is a problem. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as credit cards.

  • Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and are satisfied. Know and understand the return policy and keep this documented with your purchase records. According to the FTC, when you shop online, sellers are supposed to ship your order within the time stated in their ads or within 30 days if the ads don’t give a time. If a seller can’t ship within the promised time, they have to provide you with a revised shipping date, with the chance to either cancel your order for a full refund or accept the new shipping date.

  • Keep a clean machine. Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software for network security. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly on your computer, tablet and smartphone.

  • Need to create a password for the site? Make it unique. You will often be asked to create an account with a password when you make a purchase. Usually, you can choose not to do this, and unless you will use the e-store frequently, don’t create an account. If you do want an account, make sure to use a unique and strong password.

  • Don’t over-share your personal information. No online shopping site needs your Social Security number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them and your credit card number, they can do a lot of damage. The more scammers know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up as little personal data as possible. Major sites get breached all the time.

  • Check your statements regularly. Don't wait for your statement to be delivered at the end of the month. Go online regularly, especially during the holiday season, to view electronic statements for your checking accounts, debit cards and credit cards. Look for any fraudulent charges, even originating from payment sites like PayPal and Venmo. You should only buy online with a credit card. If your debit card is compromised, scammers have direct access to your bank funds. Any seller that wants a different kind of payment, like wired money, is a big red flag. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only when you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems; however, after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.

  • Skip the card, use your mobile wallet on your phone. Paying for items using your smartphone is pretty standard these days in brick-and-mortar stores and is actually even more secure than using your credit card. Using a mobile wallet generates a one-time-use authentication code for the purchase that no one else could ever steal and use. Plus, you're avoiding card skimmers. You don't even need to take your credit card with you if you only go places that accept phone-based payments.

Protect your personal information

Remember that no retailer needs your Social Security number or birthday. The more information that scammers have, the easier it is for them to commit fraud. We at Bank of Luxemburg want you to have a peaceful holiday and to keep your finances safe.

Sources: Better Business Bureau, PCMag and Webroot