According to the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau, 45% of holiday shoppers make purchases online and every year scammers devise online schemes to trick them into divulging personal information such as credit card numbers. There are several precautions you can take when shopping online to avoid getting scammed.
Scam Web Sites
Scam Web sites often display the (real) seals from certification organizations such as VeriSign, TRUSTe or thawte without authorization, or falsely claim to be certified by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). These can make you think you're buying from a secure site but end up on the receiving end of identity theft. When shopping online, look for the seals of trusted organizations and confirm that the use of the seal is legitimate by clicking on the seal.
You can usually check to see if a Web site is legitimate by clicking on the seal. A confirmation page on the certifying organizations site should open. If nothing happens when you click on a trusted organization symbol then it may be a fake.
Some scammers create fake confirmation pages, making it look like you're being redirected to a legitimate site. Always check the Web address and make sure you are on the Web site of the certifying organization. You can also go directly to the Web site of the certifying organization and look for their list of legitimate seal holders.
Purchase with a Credit Card
Always use a credit card or a secure payment service, such as PayPal or Google Checkout, when purchasing items online. Making purchases online with credit cards is the safest method of payment. If there are any unauthorized charges, Fair Credit Billing Act protection allows you to dispute the charges with your credit card company. You can refuse to pay by credit card if your purchase never arrives. Also, if someone misuses your credit card number, you're only responsible for the first $50.
Most merchants use secure web sites, where your personal information is encrypted or scrambled, so that it can't be easily intercepted.
Some Web businesses give you the option of giving your credit card information over the phone, even though you're ordering online. There are several third-party payment sites to use, such as PayPal or Google Checkout, if you don't feel comfortable giving your information directly to the seller. Don't send your credit card number by email as opposed to a secure order form. Emails are not secure.
Secured Site Payment
Always look in the address box for the "s" in https:// and for the "lock" symbol before paying. This means the site you're on is a secure one. In technical jargon, this is called a Secure Socket Layer (or SSL).
If there are any doubts about a site when using Internet Explorer, right-clicking anywhere on the page to select "Properties." This will let you see the real URL (Web site address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted. If using Firefox, click on Tools in the menu bar, then Page Info.
Questions for Your Attorney
- How can I know that I'm entering my credit card information on a secure site?
- I ordered something online using a credit card and it never arrived, what can I do?
- There is a charge on my monthly credit card statement for a purchase made from an online retailer that I didn't make, what can I do?