By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
Kansans can attest that the pandemic has disrupted every aspect of daily life in 2020, from how we work, learn and even shop. As a society, we have steadily been embracing the world of online commerce because of the convenience of shopping from home, avoiding the crowds and comparison shopping.
With more people conducting their transactions online, either by computer or smartphone, the risks of online shopping have grown exponentially. Scammers are taking advantage of the fear of shopping at traditional brick and mortar stores and are finding more and more creative ways to exploit vulnerabilities and get into our wallets as well. According to a Federal Trade Commission release earlier this month, consumers reported losing almost $117 million during the first six months of 2020 to scams that started on social media, for example, including when consumers sent money but didn’t receive the goods as advertised.
Here are some helpful tips to keep you, your money and your personal information safe when buying online as the pandemic continues and the holiday shopping season begins:
- Check out the seller. Make sure the website you’re buying from is a trusted, reputable seller. Today’s technology has made it easy for scammers to set up fake online stores, selling merchandise that may not even exist. If you’re considering buying from a website you’ve never used before, do a search for that website’s name and check their reviews on other trusted sites. Do not rely on the reviews on seller’s site, as these could be just as fake as the product they are selling.
- Learn about the product. Once you’ve identified a reputable website to make your purchase, make sure you know the details about the item you’re purchasing. You might get a great deal buying something used, but be sure to get a detailed description of the item’s condition. If new products are being sold at prices that sound too good to be true, this could be an indication that the item is a counterfeit or knock-off.
- Review the terms. Be sure you understand the seller’s return and refund policy, shipping and handling charges or any other unusual terms or conditions of the sale. If shopping on a social media site, be sure to check the privacy settings and limit what you share publicly.
- Make sure the site is secure. Before entering any payment information, be sure the site you’re using is secure. You can check this by looking at the address bar in your web browser. Many browsers display a lock icon to indicate the site is secure. You can also check the site’s URL by making sure it begins with https, not just http. This ensures that your personal information, including your contact information and credit card numbers are sent through an encrypted connection and not intercepted by hackers.
- Guard your personal information. Legitimate online businesses do not need you to hand over your date of birth or social security number.
- Pay with a credit card. A red flag for a fraudulent transaction is one that asks you to wire payment. The safest way to pay for online transactions is through a credit card, which provides you the ability to dispute fraudulent charges.
- Save your receipts. Keep paper or electronic copies of receipts for all of your online purchases. Save them at least as long as the allowed return period, or if the item contains a warranty, as long as that warranty is valid.
If you wish to file a complaint about an online transaction or any other scams please contact our office at 1-800-432-2310 or online at www.InYourCornerKansas.org.