10 ways to avoid scams on Cyber Monday
Shop securely, check terms and conditions, understand refund and returns policies and beware hidden fees.
Across the country millions of people are visiting retailer’s websites, scrolling and clicking on sales, searching for special Cyber Monday shopping deals. However, some of these deals turn out to be too good to be true.
New York’s attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman issued tips for consumers to protect themselves against fraudulent activity and senseless spending when sifting through the web of Cyber Monday sales and scams.
Beware of misleading bargains and added fees
Schneiderman warns that some retailers will mark up product prices before putting them on “sale”. Often, the new sale price may be significantly higher than the price tag on the same item later in the holiday season. Extra charges, such as delivery fees, aren’t always included in the sale price, reducing the value of these deals.
Compare warranty terms and conditions
Not all warranties are the same. Make sure you read the terms of any warranty to learn what protections you get and the length of these protections. This could substantially affect the cost of an item over the long-run.
Know the terms of a layaway plan
It’s important to always check the full terms and conditions of layaway arrangements. These differ store-to-store and legally merchants are required to provide total costs including all charges, the duration of the plan, the necessary payment schedule, information regarding the consequences of missed payments, the refund policy, and the precise location (if other than the place of purchase) of where the merchandise is being stored.
Check return and refund policies
Retailers must also provide a full description of their refund policies. If you find a store that doesn’t post their refund policy, you’re entitled to a refund within 30 days of purchase. Typically, “final sales” and “cash only” sales offer very little in the way of refunds or returns if the products you buy are damaged or defective.
Beware of restricted gift cards
Always read the fine print before purchasing any gift cards. It’s illegal for companies to impose fees for non-use within 25 months of purchase or to have an expiration date of less than five years from issuance. However, Schneiderman suggests you use your gift card as soon as possible. Experiencing issues? Contact the issuer.
Shop only on secure Internet connections
This is really important. You should never conduct any financial transaction or provide your credit card details over an unsecured internet, hotspot or Wi-Fi connection. Identity thieves prey on these types of networks. Always verify that the URL you are visiting begins with a secured https://, rather than the standard http://.
Don’t be fooled by the wrong website or domain name
In many cases, shoppers are tricked into giving up their personal information after scammers have lured them to a bogus website which claims to be the real deal. Victims are often targeted via email or social media. Therefore, it’s important you don’t click on links from third parties you don’t know or trust and always check the correct spelling, validity and address of the website you’re visiting. Type URL’s directly into your browser.
Even big companies can make mistakes and misdirect customers. Earlier this year in September, beleaguered credit agency Equifax accidentally shared links to a fake phishing website posing as a security page.
Protect yourself by using credit or debit cards
Schneiderman says credit cards generally offer greater purchase protection and fraud dispute resolution than alternate payment methods. Debit cards are an ideal way to avoid credit traps and the risk of falling into debt as you’re only spending money you have. However, be aware of your bank’s overdraft charges. Additionally, if your debit card is lost or stolen, be sure to report it within two business days to limit your losses to $50.
Watch out for fake contests and prize promotions
Scammers are always trying to steal as much personal information as they can glean from consumers. You should be suspicious of any email, messages, or posts on social networks promoting giveaways or contests. While genuine sweepstakes and contests do exist online, Schneiderman warns against entering any promotion that requires you to pay money or perform any financial transactions and avoid third-party registrations.
Read the fine print
Do yourself a favor and make sure you read any fine print provided to you. It might seem long-winded, boring and tedious but taking the time to understand the legalities will allow you to make better financial decisions.
Web security company Netsparker recently released findings from its 2017 Holiday Survey, revealing two-fifths of Americans’ biggest shopping concern is that their credit card information will be hacked or stolen.
When you’re hunting through Cyber Monday deals, be wary of these major red flags that could spell trouble.
If you believe you’re the victim of identity theft, it’s important you contact the proper authorities, including local law enforcement, and consider liaising with your state attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission.