When Holiday Shopping Online, It’s Buyerbeware.com

Newswise — Traditionally, shoppers have looked forward to “Black Friday” to start their holiday shopping. However, as use of the Internet has increased, more and more people have turned to online shopping as a convenient way to shop from the comfort of their own homes.

In fact, “Cyber Monday,” the first Monday following Black Friday, has become just as important to both shoppers and retailers, and is considered the “official” start of the online holiday shopping season, says Abbe E. Forman, assistant professor of Computer and Information Science at Temple University.

“Online shopping has become so popular that it now accounts for nearly half of all holiday shopping,” says Forman, an expert in online security. “While online shopping is easy, convenient, and fun, security concerns still keep many folks away. Even savvy online shoppers should take a few extra moments to ensure their online safety so that their shopping experience is the best that it can be.”

Forman recommends a few steps that shoppers take to protect themselves while shopping online this holiday season.

“Keep an eye out for scams; everyone loves a good sale, but if something looks too good to be true, it probably is,” she says.

When considering a purchase from a retailer that you are not familiar with, Forman suggests doing some homework before “clicking” your purchase.

“Google them and see what other folks have said about their shopping experience with that company,” she says. “Try lots of different keywords to get to the info you want or need to see. There are many sites such as Yelp.com that offer good customer reviews.”

Also, Forman warns not to give out any personal information prior to your decision to make a purchase. “You should be able to peruse a website without giving any information. If an online retailer wants info prior to a transaction, it’s a red flag.

“It is a good idea to look for and read company privacy policies,” she says. “Find out what a company does with your personal information. You can also look for emblems associated with the Better Business Bureau online, VeriSign, and/or TRUSTe. These emblems tell you that the retailer is trusted and meets the standards necessary for these certifications.”

Once you’ve decided to make a purchase, Forman says there are a few tips to keep in mind to safeguard your personal information.

“Always be sure that you are transacting across a secure connection by looking for both https in the address bar and the little padlock icon toward the bottom of the computer screen,” she says. “Also, don’t give out more information than what is required. When filling out online forms, at either checkout or other times, only give the absolute minimum required info.”

Forman also suggest signing up for a free email address such as hotmail, yahoo or gmail. “Use it for online transactions,” she says. “That way if the online retailer sells your email address to a spammer, it won’t come to your primary email address.”

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