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December 1, 2013

Don't be caught off guard on Cyber Monday

Online shopping may be quick and convenient, but it has its negative side, too.

“The anonymity of the Internet often makes it difficult to discern between what’s real and what’s bogus,” says Warren Clark, Better Business Bureau president serving upstate New York.

E-tailers are expecting a record-breaking Cyber Monday — the first Monday after Thanksgiving, according to a press release from the bureau. 

Leading consumer behavior analyst, Nielsen, estimates that 46 percent of consumers plan to shop from home on Dec. 2.

Not only are shoppers placing their orders on computers, research shows that more and more will be using tablets and smartphones to make big buys in 2013, so mobile security is imperative.

For mobile shoppers, the Better Business Bureau recommends:

▶ Never click on a link until you can verify its source. Watch out for unsolicited messages called ‘smishing’ — ext messages between mobile phones and handheld devices with links that can take the recipient to a phishing site. There, users are prompted to download a program requiring personal information that puts users at risk for identity theft. 

▶ Only use secure wireless networks to avoid unprotected hot-spots. 

▶ Only use officially authorized applications. With the increases in mobile malware and viruses, ensure that application publishers are authorized by official financial organizations.  

▶ Always lock mobile phones and change passcodes frequently. 

▶ For tablet and computer shoppers, the Better Business Bureau advises shoppers to look out for counterfeit websites and too-good-to-be-true deals.

▶ Be wary of unsolicited texts or emails offering free gift cards to “contest winners.” Responses to those texts indicate that your phone number is active, and you likely will be spammed more. Don’t even be tempted to reply “STOP” as some texts invite you to do. 

▶ Watch for fake downloadable coupons that could wreak havoc on computers and provide digital identity thieves with personal information. 

▶ Avoid too-good-to-be-true offers. Extremely low or unrealistic prices on in-demand or hard-to-find goods are a red flag that retailers may not be legitimate.  

▶ Ignore websites with lousy images. If they are unclear or skewed, they may have been hijacked and reused from other sources. Vendors of authentic products will provide clear, high-quality photos. 

▶ Shop elsewhere if background information cannot be verified. Reputable e-tailers will clearly display contact information and have the proper licenses for the state where they claim to be located.  

▶ Don’t enter personal data or pay on for purchases on unencrypted web pages. Look for the URL to display “https” in the address bar, which indicates you are shopping in a secure web ecommerce site.  

▶ Don’t be careless with personal information. Only do business with websites that clearly outline how personal information will be used and avoid companies that will sell that information to third parties. Privacy policies should be easily accessible from website landing pages. 

▶ Be cautious of unanswered or unresolved complaints on Better Business Bureau Business Reviews. Do a Google search for other reviews and steer clear of businesses with patterns of problems. 

▶ Use credit cards that offer the most protection when making an online purchase. If items are misrepresented or never arrive, it’s easier to dispute charges.  

Learn more at bbb.org and “Like” the Business Bureau on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BetterBusinessBureauofUpstateNY.

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