Consumers are increasingly making their retail purchases online, choosing the convenience of shopping from their homes and having items delivered right to their door.
More than 5 percent of total retail sales are Internet-based, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s more than 15 percent higher than just one year ago.
And, while the popularity of online shopping continues to rise, the pitfalls remain the same. Criminals will employ deceptive tactics to try to learn sensitive personal and financial information, and shopping on unsecured websites leaves consumers vulnerable to identity theft.
Since June is Internet Safety Month, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued a consumer alert to remind consumers who shop online to do so safely.
“Consumers make online transactions with regularity, and more and more consumers are turning to Internet shopping as a way to avoid the hassles of traffic and long lines at retail stores,” McDaniel said. “It is important that consumers make sure that personal information is protected and that their transactions are secure.”
While it is impossible to eliminate fraud and deception on the Internet, consumers can take action to recognize it and avoid it. McDaniel offered the following recommendations to consumers making purchases online:
• When shopping online, only visit the websites of trusted businesses.
• Make sure to conduct business transactions on a secure website. Determine whether a website is secure by looking for a “lock” icon in a browser’s status bar and the letters “https” at the start of the website’s URL.
• Never reveal any passwords to anyone online and never disclose personal information like Social Security numbers, bank account numbers or telephone numbers without knowing the entity collecting the information, why the information is being collected, and for what purpose it will be used.
• Do not download files or click links sent by e-mail or social media by unfamiliar persons or entities. These may expose computers to malicious software or viruses or may open the door to identity-theft schemes.
• Read privacy policies on websites to determine how any data that is provided will be used and whether it will be shared. Most privacy policies are located at the bottom of a website’s homepage.
• Consider paying for items purchased online with a credit card. Consumers are allowed under federal law to dispute charges and cardholders may have no liability if a card is stolen and used.
• Review monthly bank and credit card statements for any errors or unauthorized purchases.
• Keep records of all online transactions.
Consumers who believe they have been victims of identity theft or other online fraud should contact local law enforcement, as well as the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. For more information about online-shopping safety or other consumer-related issues, call the Consumer Protection Division Hotline, 1-800-482-8982 or visit the division’s website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org.