Avoid becoming a fraud victim by following these tips for online safety
Sometimes it's hard to be sure who you're dealing with online. Follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim of fraud when you're buying online.
- Check out unfamiliar sellers
- Pay the safest way
- Know A Secure Browser
- Never pay using a money transfer service
- Keep records of your purchases
- Watch out for "phishing" and "smishing"
Shopper complaints can keep you away from the bad guys. If you're not familiar with the seller, it's a good idea to look for information about complaints at the Better Business Bureau, www.bbb.org, and check the seller ratings on auction or price comparison sites.
There are also many online sites where consumers share information about problems with companies and give feedback that can help you decide whether you want to do business with them.
Credit cards offer extra protections. If you pay with a credit card, you have the right to dispute the charges if the goods or services aren't delivered or were falsely described. It's safe to provide your credit card number online because you also have the right to dispute the charges if someone fraudulently uses it. While you can also dispute unauthorized debits, you don't have the right to dispute debits if the goods or services were misrepresented or never arrived.
Note: Some debit card issuers will voluntarily credit the money back in that case, so be sure to ask if you become a victim. Some payment services such as PayPal offer "buyer protection" in case something goes wrong. Read how to qualify for these protections before using the services.
Look for "shttp" or "https" in the web address. The "s" stands for secure. Some websites use a security feature that turns your account number into code so no one else can read it. If "shttp" or "https" appears at the beginning of the website URL (at the top of your computer screen), you know the site is protecting your account number. There may also be a symbol on your screen such as a padlock that closes. Never provide financial account numbers by email, since it's not secure.
Crooks ask consumers to send them payment using a money transfer service such as Western Union or MoneyGram because they can get the cash fast and it's hard to trace. Legitimate sellers don't ask consumers to send payment that way. Money transfer services should only be used to send money to people you have met in person and know well, not to strangers.
Always save or print order documents. Be sure to save your order information and other documentation in a special folder in case there are questions or problems later. To protect yourself from losing the information to a computer snafu, print it.
Legitimate companies will never request confirmation of account information by email or texting. No one who already has your account information would need to contact you to confirm it. Never click on the link or call the number that may be provided; your identity may be stolen by the person on the other end. Instead, immediately delete these messages, since they may also contain viruses that can infect your computer or mobile phone.