Identity theft is a serious risk for online shoppers, and Cyber Monday scams are one way that shoppers are targeted.
There are lots of ways to prevent identity theft and avoid becoming a victim of consumer fraud, but knowing what kinds of sales are likely to be scams makes it easier to shop smart.
A scam isn’t just a phony email, it can also be a shady way of doing business online. Especially on this Cyber Monday, follow these strategies to keep yourself, your bank account, and your identity safe:
- Check the return policy. Unless you’re buying something on “Final Sale,” you should be able to return any items you buy online within a limited period of time. Don’t take that for granted though; check the online merchant’s return policy before you buy. If they won’t let you return it, you probably don’t want to buy it.
- Read user reviews. You can’t check out the item for yourself online, so make sure you only buy items that have good reviews, and that are sold by reputable online retailers. Read user reviews to see what details about the product aren’t in the description, and whether the seller has scammed customers before. If there aren’t enough reviews or they all seem negative, don’t be fooled.
- Don’t do a “discount” search. Cyber Monday is often plagued by spammers who target search engines. Consumers who search for words like “sale” and “discount” may land on disreputable sites that don’t sell the things they claim. Stick to online merchants that you know when scoping out sales this holiday season. Don’t use big search engines to look for deals.
- Never click pop-up windows. Pop-ups that ask you to click for deals or to get to a website are almost always bad news. Even if it looks like an ad for a store that you like, it may be a virus in disguise. Type in the URL by yourself for any store you want to shop at, instead of letting pop-up windows redirect you.
- Protect your phones and tablets too. This year there are a lot of holiday shopping apps available for smartphones and tablets. Some of them are real, but others are just a way to get a virus into your phone or to hack into your personal information. Buy your apps from an official store and read the reviews before you install them. Your smartphone is just like a computer, so make sure it stays safe when you shop.