Be a smart shopper on Cyber Monday

November 26, 2017 GMT

After Black Friday, eager consumers looking to score more bargains on merchandise carried over from the holiday weekend search the Internet on Cyber Monday to find online deals. Last year, according to Forbes, Cyber Monday sales amounted to $3.45 billion, making it the biggest day ever in U.S. e-commerce history. This year, Forbes predicts that Cyber Monday will again pull in huge holiday sales figures at around $3.81 billion, with mobile sales accounting for $1.24 billion of that.

“Although online shopping can be easy and convenient, you can also get scammed if you’re not careful,” said Jim Hegarty, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Nebraska, South Dakota, the Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa.

“It’s not just fake sites, but real sites that are selling real products that are not what consumers expect (from pictures) or take forever to get there (if ever). Earlier this year, there was a website that was similar to Pandora. People using this site thought they were buying Pandora jewelry and were actually purchasing cheap products from China.”

The BBB offers the following tips for people looking to shop online safely on Nov. 27:

» Be a savvy shopper: When shopping online, take your time, and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for the return policy during the holidays, as some stores have different return policies depending on the item you purchase. If the online merchant also has brick and mortar locations, ask if it is possible to return items to the physical location. Many online orders can be returned for a full refund, but others have restocking fees.

»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 are shopping with a legitimate site. Check out bbb.org to read more about stores or websites unfamiliar to you.

» Trust but verify: When shopping online, use retail websites that you trust. Use common sense and avoid deals that seem “too good to be true.” Always check to see where the business is physically located. If the only way to contact it is via email, that’s a red flag. If you’re shopping with an unfamiliar retailer, check it out at bbb.org.

» Use anti-virus software: To ensure your computer and personal information are safe, use anti-virus software on your computer or mobile device and keep it up-to-date. If in public, don’t use websites containing personal information (bank, credit card) on public Wi-Fi, as that information could be picked up by an identity thief.

» Shop with a credit card: A credit card provides additional protections over a debit card in case of fraudulent transactions. If your card number is compromised, it’s easier to dispute any charges that you didn’t approve. Prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as a credit card, but you’ll never lose more than the value of the card itself.

» Make sure websites are secure: Only share personal information and your credit card number with websites that are https (the extra “s” stands for secure) and that have a security lock icon in the task bar.

» Be careful of phishing scams: A popular one at this time of year is an email claiming to be from a package- delivery company with links to tracking information (clicking on unfamiliar links can place you at risk for malware and/or identity theft).