The Monday after Thanksgiving, also known as Cyber Monday, is rapidly becoming as ubiquitous as Black Friday.
It’s a day when many Americans look for holiday deals on the internet. But North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper warns that caution online is just as important as it is at the mall or in a parking lot.
Shop sites you know and trust. That’s the first line of defense against online scammers. Cooper says unfamiliar websites can be verified through his office’s Consumer Protection Division.
Watch for copycat websites that look like the real deal but aren’t.
Read the return policy carefully before you purchase. Some online retailers won’t let you return items to local stores, while others charge a restocking fee. Many require you to pay for shipping on returns or exchanges.
Check site security before you enter any payment information. Look for a lock icon and a web address that starts with “https”.
And be wary of those pop-ups at the end of a transaction that offer you money off your next purchase. You could be signing up for discount clubs, travel memberships or other services only to discover those fees later on your statement.
And finally, review your credit card statements. Report any charges you didn’t authorize to your credit card company immediately, and request a refund and a new card.
Additional tips from Attorney General Roy Cooper:
- Do your own price comparison. Just because a website claims to beat prices at competitor sites or brick-and-mortar retailers doesn’t mean it’s true. To get the best deals, compare prices online and off. Also, beware of counterfeit or knock off products that may be poor quality.
- Know how to contact the company if problems arise. Get the company’s street address and telephone number and verify them before you place an order. Remember to be especially careful when shopping overseas sites, since no U.S. or state agency has legal authority over business deals with companies in other countries.
- Consider paying by credit card. If your order doesn’t arrive or isn’t what you expected, you can dispute it with your credit card company. Federal law also limits your liability to $50 if your credit card number gets stolen. Get a credit card with a low limit that you use only for online shopping.
- Ask when your order will arrive. Internet and catalog shoppers are protected by the Federal Mail Order Rule<http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/bus02-business-guide-mail-and-telephone-order-merchandise-rule>. By law, a company is required to ship your order within the time stated. If you aren’t given a delivery date, the company has 30 days once your order is received. If the item doesn’t ship on time, the seller must let you know and allow you to cancel for a full refund.
- Print out and save records of all online orders. Keep the product description, price, online receipt, order number and customer service number. Save any emails the company sends you confirming your purchase or updating you on the status of an order.
- Protect your identity. Guard your Social Security, driver’s license and bank account numbers when you shop online. Only share financial information via secure sites, never by email. Don’t respond to unsolicited emails or telemarketing calls that ask for your personal information.
To check out a company with the Attorney General’s Office or file a consumer complaint, call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina.
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