Top Ten Cyber Monday Tips

November 28, 2011 Updated Nov 28, 2011 at 7:04 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Top Ten Cyber Monday Tips

November 28, 2011 Updated Nov 28, 2011 at 7:04 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY – ( release ) Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, has officially replaced Black Friday as the most popular day to shop for the holidays. Shopping online means avoiding the crowds, but it also opens up the buyer to attacks from scammers and hackers.

Every year, more people head online rather than to the mall to get their holiday shopping done. According to a preliminary shopping survey, conducted for the National Retail Federation by BIGresearch, up to 152 million people plan to shop Black Friday weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), higher than the 138 million people who planned to do so last year. According to the survey, 74 million people say they will definitely hit the stores and another 77 million are waiting to see if the bargains are worth braving the cold and the crowds.

Mobile retail shopping is also expected to rise for smartphone owners, particularly with the twenty-something crowd. The National Retail Federation also found that individuals who shop online and in stores spent 25% more than those that shopped in stores only.

“You can’t beat shopping online for convenience, comfort and comparing prices,” said David Polino, Better Business Bureau President. “But don’t let your guard down. Take the necessary precautions to avoid fraudulent websites, scammers and other Grinches who would just love to take your money and ruin your holidays.”

BBB recommends the following top 10 tips for Cyber Monday and other dates when shopping online this holiday season to help fight unscrupulous online retailers, scammers and hackers:

1. Protect your computer – A computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.

2. Shop on trustworthy websites – Shoppers should start at www.bbb.org to check on the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction. It’s a good idea to look for the BBB logo and other widely-recognized seals on retailer websites, but make sure they are real (some rogue sites plagiarize seals to look legitimate).

3. Protect your personal information – BBB recommends taking the time to read the site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there isn’t one posted, take that as a red flag that personal information may be sold to others without permission.

4. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true – Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a “deal” that might cost them dearly in the end.

5. Beware of phishing – Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an e-mail, BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.

6. Confirm your online purchase is secure – Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, BBB recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page and select “Properties.” This will let you see the real URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted.

7. Pay with a credit card – It’s best to use a credit card, because under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don’t receive the item. Your also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on your credit card, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it. If you are going to shop on classifieds web sites like Craigslist, never wire money and only buy locally where you can see the item before you hand over your money.

8. Keep documentation of your order - After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by e-mail – BBB recommends saving a copy of the web page and any e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.

9. Check your credit card statements often – Don’t wait for paper statements; BBB recommends consumers check their credit card statements for suspicious activity by either calling credit card companies or by looking at statements online regularly.

10. Know your rights – Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goods aren’t shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund. There is no general three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject merchandise if it’s defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, it’s the company’s policies that determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.

Keep in mind some major retailers may jump start their selling clocks and begin their own Cyber Monday sooner. “Your game plan should also include a news watch for any last minute sale announcements,” added Polino. “We can all use a good deal and it feels great to snatch up what you’re looking for on sale.”

What if you don’t like what you ordered? Returning what you bought online can be tortuous if you don’t know what to look out for. BBB adds a few return tips to watch for:

Do you have to pay return shipping for any returned item? Most stores do charge and some require you to pay up front; others such as Amazon.com provide a return shipping label but will deduct the cost from your refund. Check it out before you click “complete my order.” You should not have to pay a shipping fee if you received the incorrect item, or if it was damaged.

Check on the return path. If you ordered online from a brick-and-mortar store, can you return it in person instead of shipping it back?
Do you have a "restocking fee?" Some stores will deduct this from your refund. This is also common in brick-and-mortar stores, especially for electronics. You should not pay a restocking fee if the item was damaged or defective.

Not Sure? Don’t Open it! Some stores will not allow you to return items if their sealed boxes have been opened.

Tick Tock. The store may set it’s own return clock. Check the store's time limit on returns. Some will only allow you to return an item within 14 to 30 days.

For more advice on staying safe online this holiday season, and to see reports on thousands of online retailers, go to www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-holiday/.