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Online shopping provides consumers with added convenience, but comes with its own risks. Use these tips to secure your private information and to ensure a safe online shopping experience.

  1. HTTPS: Make sure to shop on sites that use secure HTTP as denoted by “https://” before the site’s URL. An “s” in the http field tells you the connection is secure and your data is safeguarded. Similarly, a lock icon by the URL also means you are protected.
  2. Use a Credit Card: Consumers should make purchases with a credit card when possible in the event that their payment information is intercepted. There are excellent protections Buy under federal law that limit the liability of unauthorized charges when they are promptly reported. Even better than a traditional credit card— many institutions now provide consumers with a
    single use credit card number that may be used for one secure online shopping transaction
  3. Know the seller: Purchasing from a seller you know and trust is the best way to ensure an excellent shopping experience. For unknown websites, use an online store review service such as Epinions, BizRate, the Better Business Bureau, or even a simple Google search to see what other consumers are saying. When using auction sites such as eBay, check the seller’s rating. Additionally, be on the lookout for scam sites that lure consumers with attractive deals in an effort to rip them off— we have made an example website available at
  4. Shipping: Make sure to use a shipping service that offers signature confirmation to avoid
    having your goods stolen off your doorstep. This is offered by USPS, FedEx, UPS, and other major carriers.

We also developed a fake scam website called “99% Rebates Today” to illustrate the ways scammers prey on online shoppers.  The website shows a too-good-to-be-true offer of cash back for expensive items and asks for the shopper’s bank account information in return.  When you click on any of the site’s links, it redirects to an informational page that provides tips on how to spot similar scams.  The site also outlines common online shopping scams, such as coupon scams, rebate scams, and free shipping scams.  Each type of scam has its own components and nuances, but most will use the same kinds of tactics to trick you into providing you bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or cash up front.

99% Rebates Today” should serve as a way to alert you to websites that appear professional and helpful, but are in fact, scams. While it is often difficult to differentiate between the two, if you see tactics that resemble the ones listed on the site, be attentive and understand that it is extremely important for you and your financial well-being to avoid such websites.  Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


This post is part of our “Shopping 101” series, bringing you timely information as you shop this holiday season.  For more information on your shopping rights, click here.

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