Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) kicks off the on-line holiday shopping season. Shopping on-line can catch you some great bargains, and helps you avoid crowds, long-lines and the hassle of store shopping. But it can be risky. Copycat websites sometimes pop-up after typing the name of that sought-after item in a search engine.
Although legitimate on-line retailers pop up on the screen, so do “cybersquatters”, those businesses that are bogus and steal or alter the Internet addresses of well-known companies.
Some of these websites may actually sell things, but more than likely most are simply fronts for scammers to collect shoppers’ credit card numbers.
Make sure that the website you are shopping on always begins with “https://” instead of “http://”. The “s” means that the site is secure.
Carefully read the domain name (internet address) when clicking through to a website that appears at the top of your browser. Beware of any site whose name has even the slightest change from a legitimate on-line retailer’s – – extra letters, words or misspellings and anything but the usual .com or .org.
One example (which vasnished after Scam Alert exposed it earlier this year) was tiffanyco.mn, a slight tweak of the real Tiffany website, tiffany.com. The “mn” meant that the website was registered in Mongolia.
Most legitimate on-line retailers have a “”Contact Us” page with a phone number and physical address, along with a “Terms and Conditions” link detailing return policies. Bogus website may lack these pages.
During this season of giving, you may notice an increase in donation drives, but give wisely. Although charity scams occur year-round, they are most common during the holiday season.
Unless you previously donated to a particular organization and provided your e-mail address, assume that all unsolicited e-mail requests for donations are scams. Don’t click on an attachment or link — this can unleash a computer virus. Never give a credit card number to a person who telephones you. Ask to be mailed brochures so that you can authenticate the organization before you give. Never give cash. Be wary of cold-call requests for charities that claim to be collecting on behalf of police and firefighters, sick or needy children, veterans or disaster-relief. These hot-button causes are common scams specifically targeting older donors.
At on-line marketplaces like Craigslist, deal only with sellers who provide a phone number and speak with that person. Don’t rely solely on e-mail correspondence. Assume that any request for wire-transfer payment means a scam.
Don’t believe “too-good-to-be-true” prices from sellers who claim to be soldiers needing a quick deal before deploying overseas or give you a “hard luck” story. These are common tricks to get advance payment and you’ll probably get no merchandise.
Don’t believe e-mails claiming that UPS, FedEx or the US Postal Service is trying to deliver a package to you. They’ll ask you to click on a link and it’s another hoax to install malware. Unless you previously provided your e-mail, mail services or courier services will not contact you this way.
If you receive a postcard concerning an “undeliverable” package, this scam baits you to telephone for more details. When you make the call, you are making an overseas call, which is very expensive. You may be prompted to reveal personal information. If you really think that you have missed delivery of a package, call that delivery service’s number yourself.
Buy gift cards only at a store’s staffed customer service or check-out counter, or on it’s website. Don’t get them off untended display racks in the store. Fraudsters can peel off stickers or use scanners to glean codes. The crooks use the codes to make purchases after you buy the card and have it activated.