Provided by Your Better Business Bureau serving Northwest Florida
The holiday season is in full swing as consumers are shopping for friends and loved ones. As you are hunting both in stores and on line for the best deals on the hottest items this year, scammers are also on the hunt for unsuspecting victims.
Whether you are the type of shopper that likes to physically walk into a store to purchase your items or you prefer to do your shopping on line from the comforts of home, your BBB would like to offer the following tips to ensure that your identity is not compromised this holiday season.
1. Look for the lock – When shopping online or anytime you’re entering personal information on the web, make sure the website is security enabled. Look for the lock symbol and that the URL starts with https://. The “s” stands for secure.
2. Use credit cards, not cash or debit – Credit cards offer shoppers the most consumer protection, as long as you can keep credit card debt in check.
3. Check your account statements – Keep a close eye on your statements; the sooner you recognize an unauthorized purchase, the easier it is to recover lost funds.
4. Ask about return policies – Stores and website policies vastly differ. Some stores have a time limit on returns/exchanges, websites may charge you additional shipping and handling fees for unwanted items and some items may be nonreturnable.
5. Keep your receipts – For big ticket items, keep your receipts for warranty purposes. Receipts should be kept in case of return/exchange needs and to check against your account statements to verify you haven’t been overcharged (especially if a tip is involved).
6. Check out businesses on bbb.org – If buying from a company you’re unfamiliar with or shopping from a new website, check a company’s record on www.bbb.org. Basic company information will be listed, plus any complaints that have been filed against the business in the past three years.
7. Give wisely – Ask questions about how your donations will be used and verify the legitimacy of a charity or organization on www.give.org.
8. Know contact information – Before handing over money or personal information to a business, charity, website or individual, always verify contact information. Request a formal name, phone number and physical address.
9. Use secure Internet connections – While on-the-go, using WiFi at your favorite coffee shops and restaurants is a real data-saver. But if you’re shopping online, checking your accounts or entering personal information, you’re safer using a password-protected WiFi signal or a cell signal.
Your BBB would like consumers and businesses to enjoy the holiday season and tell the would-be scammers Bah Humbug. They won’t be putting presents under their tree with your money this year.
If you have questions about a business or organization, please visit bbb.org for their business review. Your Better Business Bureau has already done the homework for you. If you are uncertain of a particular business, you can also search for listings by type of business.