Protect yourself on Cyber Monday

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Be careful using your credit card online.

According to the National Retail Federation, more than 122 million Americans are expected to shop online today, on Cyber Monday.

The Federation also projects shoppers will spend nearly $656 billion this holiday season.

But shopping online can also put you at risk of scams or fraud, according to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper's Office.

Here are some tips from his office:

- Shop through sites you know and trust. If you're not sure about an online shopping site, look into it through the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division and your local Better Business Bureau. You can also check online reviews to spot potential problems. Beware of lookalike websites that may pop up online or be included as links in phishing emails.

- Look out for fake shopping apps. Many retailers have their own shopping apps, but scammers have also created phony lookalike apps to get access to consumers' devices. Before you download a shopping app, check reviews, look for typos, and if possible, use a download link available on the retailer's official website.

- Compare prices on your own. If an online shopping site claims to beat competitors' prices, don't take their word for it. Compare prices online and at brick-and-mortar stores to make sure you're getting the best deal. Also, look out for phony products or knock-offs that may be of poorer quality.

- Read return policies carefully. Merchants aren't required by law to accept returns. Some online retailers won't let you return items in their brick-and-mortar locations, and others charge restocking fees or refuse to process returns on items that have already been opened. Online retailers may also require you to pay shipping fees to return or exchange an item.

- Know how to contact the company directly. Get the company's street address and telephone number and verify them before you order. Be especially careful when shopping overseas sites, since no U.S. or state agency has legal authority over business deals with companies in other countries.

- Stick to secure websites. Before you enter any payment information into a website, look for a lock icon and a web address that starts with "https."

- Consider paying by credit card. If your order doesn't arrive or isn't what you expected, you can dispute it with your credit card company. If your credit card number gets stolen, federal law limits your liability to $50. Remember that cards with EMV chip technology aren't more secure when it comes to online shopping.

- Steer clear of pop ups. Beware of messages that appear at the end of an online purchase offering discounts on your next purchase. They could trick you into signing up for travel memberships or other services you don't want with fees that show up later on your credit card or bank statement.

- Know when your order is scheduled to arrive. Under the federal Mail or Telephone Order Rule, companies are required to ship your online or catalog order within the time stated. If you aren't given a delivery date, the company has 30 days once your order is received. If the item doesn't ship on time, the seller must let you know and allow you to cancel for a full refund.

- Require signature for any deliveries. Thieves have been known to follow delivery trucks into neighborhoods and steal packages left on doorsteps. Opt to have your package held at the nearest service location if you expect it to be delivered when you aren't at home.

- Keep records of all online orders. Save information like the product description, price, online receipt, order number and customer service number. Archive any confirmation emails from the company.

- Go over your credit card statements. Our office has received complaints from consumers about unauthorized charges billed to their account after they shop online. If you see a charge you didn't approve, contact your credit card company immediately, request a refund, and ask for a new card.

- Keep your identity safe. Guard your Social Security, driver's license and bank account numbers when you shop online. Only share financial information on secure sites-never by email or through social media. Avoid unsolicited messages that ask for your personal information.

- Act immediately if your information is compromised. If you're notified that your information has been exposed due to a data breach, follow our recommended steps to avoid identity theft.

To check out a company or file a consumer complaint, call the Attorney General's Office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina. Consumers can also file complaints online and get more holiday shopping tips at ncdoj.gov.
Related Topics:
shoppingholidaychristmascyber mondayRaleigh
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