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The Holiday Season is upon us. Over the next few weeks as the holiday music plays and decorations are put up, consumers will be flocking to malls and websites hoping to purchase the perfect gift for their family member or friend. “Cyber Monday” refers to the Monday after “Black Friday” when online retailers take advantage of heavy website traffic to post sales and discounts.

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.

  • Purchase items from trusted and reliable merchants. For unknown websites, use an online store review service such as the Better Business Bureau or even a simple internet search to see what other consumers are saying about their experience. 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. Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Be cautious of the many emails you are likely to receive about good deals. While most are probably legitimate, many could be spam or phishing  To make sure the email is legitimate, hover your mouse over the name of the sender and look at the URL.  If it is a disorganized assortment of numbers and letters, it is a scam.
  • Always look at customer reviews before buying a product. It’s harder to discern the quality of a product online than in a store where you can see it in person, so customer reviews are the best way to know if you’re going to get your money’s worth.
  • 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.
  • Consumers should make purchases with a credit card when possible in the event that their payment information is intercepted. There are strong protections under federal law that limit the liability of unauthorized charges when they are promptly reported.
  • It’s important to review privacy policies before you make any online purchase so that you know what information the merchant is collecting about you and what they will do with it.
  • Consider using a shipping service that offers signature confirmation to avoid having your goods stolen off your doorstep. This is offered by several major carriers.

This post is part of our “Holiday Shopping” series, bringing you timely information as you shop this holiday season.  For more information on your shopping rights, visit our website: https://www.mass.gov/guides/a-massachusetts-consumer-guide-to-shopping-rights

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized wheelchair Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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