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Consumers warned to be careful when holiday shopping online

Widjaya Ivan / CC

 

By Paul Schmitt

 

With more people heading online to do holiday shopping and giving this year, law enforcement officials are warning people to make sure to carefully check over their monthly credit card statements.  According to the State Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, scammers are evolving and honing their crafts to find potential scams and exploits.  Online holiday scams often feature in-demand products like electronics and fashion items to attract your attention.  Scammers use fake websites, classified ads social media messages, and text and email blasts to trick you into downloading harmful malware.  Over 50 percent of consumers reportedly will shop all or a majority of their holiday shopping online.

 

Keep your online shopping experience safe by following these simple tips:

 

  • Update your device’s operating system and antivirus software before you start shopping.
  • Make sure a website is legitimate before ordering. Check for the company’s name, physical location, and contact information. Remember that identity thieves can create websites that mimic a legitimate business’s site, so don’t trust a site based solely on its appearance. Lastly, do some quick research see if there are any warnings about the site online and contact Wisconsin’s Consumer Protection Hotline (800-422-7182 or datcphotline@wi.gov) to see complaints have been filed against the business.
  • Avoid social media posts or emails that appear to offer free vouchers or gift cards – they often lead to online surveys designed to steal personal information.
  • When purchasing gift cards online, be leery of auction sites selling discounted or bulk gift cards – you may end up with cards that have been tampered with, have been used or that are expired.
  • Make sure you are on a secure site before you enter your password or any personal or banking information. Secure sites start with “https” rather than “http” (the “s” stands for “secure”).
  • Pay by credit card. If you use a credit card, federal law gives you the right to dispute charges if you report them to the credit card company within 60 days of receiving the statement.
  • Keep a paper trail. Print or save records of online transactions, item descriptions, and copies of emails sent between you and the seller. Carefully review credit card statements after the holidays to look for unauthorized charges.

 

For additional information or to file a consumer complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at datcp.wi.gov, send an e-mail to datcphotline@wi.ge or call the Consumer Protection Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.

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