WASHINGTON (12/1/08)--For cash-strapped consumers, finding the best holiday deals this year is a high priority. It’s expected, though, that financial stress could lead to a significant increase in fraud this shopping season (Identity Theft Assistance Center, Nov. 6). More consumers are looking to the Internet for holiday deals, but it’s not a good deal if you hand over personal information to a crook. To safeguard your credit card numbers, purchase only from sites displaying a closed padlock on the browser frame. And on the payment page, look for https
in the URL. The National Fraud Information Center and Internet Fraud Complaint Center offer more tips for staying safe during online holiday shopping:
* Avoid cash payments. If you pay with a credit card, you can dispute fraudulent charges if the goods are misrepresented or never delivered. * Understand how an online auction works. Know the obligations of buyer and seller in the transaction, including delivery time, return policy, warranty and service. Depending on the item’s value, you may consider insuring it. * Get contact information. Obtain the seller’s name, street address, telephone number and e-mail address. Also, glance at the feedback section on an auction site to gauge the seller’s credibility. But be wary: Sellers can post their own reviews in their favor. * Be wary of overseas transactions. It’s more difficult to resolve problems when dealing with buyers from other countries.
Wherever you do your shopping, the Identity Theft Assistance Center reminds you to protect your PINs (personal identification numbers) as well as any document that contains sensitive personal information. To spot suspicious activity, monitor your accounts online and obtain one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit reporting agencies--TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax--at annualcreditreport.com.
For more information, read “Retailers revive layaway to counter credit crunch” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center