CONSUMER ALERT: FIND DEALS, NOT TROUBLE, SHOPPING ONLINE

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November 19, 2014

LITTLE ROCK – For many Arkansans, the last slice of Thanksgiving pie fuels the search for the best holiday gifts. For years, an increasing number of consumers have begun the holiday gift hunt online the Monday following Thanksgiving, or “Cyber Monday”—this year, that is Dec.1.

The National Retail Federation reported that 131 million Americans shopped online on Cyber Monday in 2013. This year, online sales during the months of November and December are predicted to reach $616.9 billion.

In order to avoid the hassle of navigating crowds, long lines and parking lot traffic, more consumers are turning to shopping on their computers, tablets and phones. Last year, 25 million Americans used their mobile devices to shop on Cyber Monday. While online shopping is convenient, consumers should know that with convenience comes some risk.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued today’s consumer alert to encourage consumers to use caution shopping online this holiday season.

“It is important that consumers use every precaution to protect their sensitive financial and personal information while shopping online, as some websites may not be secure and can increase consumers’ vulnerability to identity theft,” McDaniel said. “There are, thankfully, some easy steps consumers can take to enhance their safety when purchasing gifts online.”

Consumers should make sure to shop on websites of reputable retailers that they know and trust. McDaniel advised consumers to avoid giving sensitive financial information like a credit card number unless it is appropriate, such as on an order form. Do not disclose personal information unless it is clear who is collecting it and how the collector will use it.

McDaniel reminded consumers never to divulge website, social media or email account passwords to anyone, including those who claim to be internet service or e-commerce providers.

Exercise caution before clicking on links or downloading files that are posted on social media sites or emailed from unfamiliar organizations. Scammers often use emails and online ads touting prizes or gift cards to entice consumers to click on links. The Attorney General warned against such actions, as they may expose consumers’ computers to damaging malicious hardware or may be a part of a scheme to steal personal information.

The Attorney General provided the following tips to help keep consumers safe while shopping online this holiday season:

  • Do your research. Read reviews of companies and products by typing in words like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam” into a search engine prior to purchasing a product. Be sure to read several reviews—not just one source.
  • Know the terms. Carefully read the refund and exchange policies for any mention of charges (like shipping costs or restocking fees) upon returning a product.
  • Check the web address for security. Make sure that the website address starts with “https” before you enter any financial information. The “s” stands for secure. If there is no “s,” don’t enter your information.
  • Pay with a credit card. Credit cards provide protections that other payment methods may not. If there is a problem, consumers have the right to dispute charges and withhold payment temporarily while the dispute is investigated.
  • Document all purchases by printing or saving receipts.
  • Monitor financial accounts for unusual activity and take action. If you suspect identity theft, contact your credit card company, your bank, all three credit reporting agencies and the police immediately.

For more information on protecting your sensitive personal and financial information or other consumer issues, call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 482-8982 or (501) 682-2341, or visit the Consumer Protection Division's website at www.GotYourBackArkansas.org.

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