Shopping online has become a normal routine for many Americans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the estimated e-commerce sales for the first quarter of 2017 was $105.7 billion, a 4% increase from the fourth quarter of 2016. While an increasing number of consumers are turning to the internet to shop, all too often, consumers find what they received is not what they ordered. In 2016, BBB received over 13,000 complaints against online retailers from consumers. BBB urges consumers to shop smart by taking your time to understand all of the retailer’s policies before clicking the checkout button.
“It’s because shopping online is quick and convenient that an increasing number of consumers are swindled by dishonest merchants,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB serving Central East Texas. “That’s why it’s important to make sure you only shop on secure, legitimate websites.”
BBB urges online shoppers to be savvy with the following tips:
Know the advertiser. Check out the retailer’s Business Profile at bbb.org before shopping. Some of the best deals are only available online, but make sure you are shopping with a company who has a good track record.
Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with https:// and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page.
Shop savvy. When shopping online, take your time and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for a return policy; although many online orders can be returned for a full refund, some may have restocking fees. Know before you buy.
Shop with a credit card. In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protections and allows you to dispute any unauthorized charges. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as a credit card.
Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and are satisfied.
Keep a clean machine. Being on unfamiliar sites can lead to malware or viruses being downloaded on to your computer. Make sure you have the most up to date firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly on your computer, tablet and smart phone.
Online Dating Scams Give Love a Bad Name
Over the years, the internet has become a major resource for people looking for love. According to a 2015 survey by Pew Research Center, 15 percent of U.S. adults have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps. With more people using online dating, scammers are taking advantage by creating compelling backstories, full-fledged identities then trick you into falling for somebody who doesn’t exist. Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas (BBB) urges consumers to be on the lookout for scams being populated on online dating websites and on social networks.
“The romance scam is very similar to other types of consumer fraud, however, in this case the scammer’s main tool is affection and eventually love,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, president and CEO of BBB Central East Texas. “They use this feigned devotion to swindle thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars from their prey”.
Targeting single and widowed men and women, love scammers are setting up fake profiles committing anywhere from three to twelve months to woo their victims into emptying their pockets. Often times scammers claim to be in the military or working overseas as a reason to not meet you in person.
BBB warns consumers of the following love scam operator tactics:
- They claim to be from the U.S., but they are overseas for business or family matters.
- They profess their love at warp speed, usually within 24-48 hours.
- They send gifts within the first few weeks of contact both to endear their victims to them as well as to confirm their victim’s address.
- Many claim to have lost a spouse in a tragic accident.
- They insist you keep the relationship a secret.
BBB offers the following tips to help avoid heartbreak:
- Never send money to someone you have never met and whom you don’t know well. If you are asked to send funds via wire transfer, prepaid credit card, Green Dot Moneypack, or any unusual method of payment, discontinue contact immediately. If you refuse to send money to a scam artist, they will move on to someone else.
- Don’t click on links or open attachments. Links can download malware onto your computer which are designed to retrieve information and compromise your identity. So be careful next time searching for how to use poppers.
- Never share personally identifiable information. Refrain from sharing banking and credit card information, birthday and Social Security number with anyone you don’t know.
- Don’t be pressured to act immediately. Scammers typically make you think something is scarce. They want to push you into action before you have time to think or to discuss it with a family member, friend or financial advisor.
- Be cautious about what you share online. Be sure to use privacy settings on all social media and online accounts. Imposters often get information about their targets from their online interactions and can make themselves sound like a friend or family member because they know so much about you.
For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please use BBB Scam Tracker or call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373)
BBB to Host Shred Events in October
Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas is hosting Shred Events in your area in October. The events are designed to help individuals and small businesses fight identity theft by offering free shredding services for up to three (3) boxes or bags of documents per vehicle. For these events BBB will be joined by partners; City of Van, Austin Bank, Lindale Chamber of Commerce, Shred-It, and Ark-La Tex Shredding Co., Inc.
“Individuals and small businesses should be proactive in protecting their personal information and that of their clients”, said Betsie Chimney, Engagement Specialist for BBB serving Central East Texas. “The first rule in identity protection is if you don’t need it, destroy it responsibly.”
Shred-It and Ark-La Tex Shredding Co., Inc. are generously donating their shredding services for the events. Shredder trucks and volunteers will be on hand to assist with shredding documents and hand out information on identity theft protection best practices.
BBB serving Central East Texas is part of an expansive network of BBBs across North America that collaborate to produce Secure Your ID Day Events. The program is a BBB branded identity theft, fraud prevention and educational initiative that features on-site document destruction and distribution of identity protection tips and resources to local communities.
October Shred Days are as follows:
BBB Shred Day Co-Sponsored by City of Van & Shred-It
Date: Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Time: 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location: Van City Hall, 133 W. Main St., Van Tx
BBB Shred Day Co-Sponsored by Austin Bank & Shred-It
Date: Saturday, October 14, 2017
Time: 12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Location: Austin Bank, 9111 NW Loop 281, Longview, Tx
BBB Shred Day Co-Sponsored by Lindale Chamber of Commerce & Ark-La Tex Shredding Co., Inc.
Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location: Lindale Chamber of Commerce, 205 S. Main St., Lindale, Tx
For more information about these events, contact BBB at 903-581-5704 or by going to bbb.org.
BBB Tips in Light of the Equifax Databreach
One of the nation’s thee major credit reporting agencies, Equifax experienced a data breach from mid-May through July. According to Equifax, 143 million American consumers person information was compromised. The hackers accessed names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and a few driver’s license numbers. They also stole 209,000 credit card numbers and 182,000 dispute documents with personal identifying information. The United Kingdom and Canada was affected as well.
“Being proactive is very important, as it does help reduce the chances of having your identity compromised”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB serving Central East Texas. “However, there’s never a guarantee that your information won’t get exposed. “
Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips to help protect yourself after a data breach:
- Stay calm. Consumers are not liable for fraudulent charges on stolen account numbers.
- Check your credit reports. Go to annualcreditreport.com for a free credit check from the three major credit reporting agencies. This is the only website authorized by the Federal Trade Commission to provide you with a free annual credit report. Be wary of ads, emails and social media messages for other services.
- Consider a credit freeze or fraud alert. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account with your information. However, it won’t prevent a thief from making charges to existing accounts. A fraud alert flags your credit reports, alerting potential lenders to verify the identity of anyone attempting to open an account in your name. Fraud alerts are free and don’t interfere with instant credit. However, it relies entirely on the diligence of the person performing the credit check and must be reinstated every 90 day days in most cases.
- Monitor your financial accounts. Check your bank statements online regularly and alert your bank if you see fraudulent charges. Keep receipts in case you need to prove which charges you authorized and ones you didn’t.
- Beware of phishing scams. Be on alert of scammers who may purport to be from the retailer, your bank, or credit card issuer, telling you that your card was compromised and suggesting actions to “fix” the problem. Phishing emails may attempt to fool you into providing your credit card information, or ask you to click on a link or open an attachment, which can download malware onto your computer
Equifax has created a website to assist consumers in determining if their information has been impacted and to sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. A dedicated call center is set up to assist consumers seven days a week from 7-1 a.m. EST at 1-866-447-7559.
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