Avoid These Six Mistakes on Cyber Monday

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Texas Society of CPAs Discusses Mistakes to Avoid While Shopping Online This Holiday

U.S. online retail sales are expected to total as much as $105 billion of a projected $617 billion during the months of November and December, according to the National Retail Federation. In fact, 56 percent of shoppers are expected to do at least some part of their holiday shopping online this year. While shopping from the comfort of your own home is convenient, CPAs advise these steps to ensure a safe and satisfying experience. With Cyber Monday just around the corner, and the holiday buying season in full swing, the Texas Society of CPAs reveals six mistakes to avoid while shopping online.

Mistake #1: Taking a Chance on Unknown Retailers
If you don’t buy from a well-known company, or one with which you’ve already done business, proceed with caution. Make sure the company lists an address and phone number. If you have concerns, call the customer service number. You can also contact the Better Business Bureau or your state or local consumer affairs department to see if other purchasers have filed complaints.

Mistake #2: Following Unknown Email Links
Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails or social media sites, even if they purport to be from trustworthy retailers. They may take you to sites that are trying to collect information for identity theft. Instead, type the organization’s web address into your browser’s address bar or conduct a search. Never divulge personal information—including your credit card or bank account number or your Social Security number—in response to an ad or email.

Mistake #3: Shopping at Sites that Aren’t Secure
A company’s website address can give clues to their level of security. For example, look for URLs beginning with “https” rather than “http.” The added “s” indicates a secure website. Check for a padlock icon in the address bar to indicate whether or not the site uses encryption to ensure security. Review the retailer’s privacy policies to find out if they are designed to protect your credit card information or other confidential data. Remember that Internet scammers often use a name that is very similar to a reputable brand. If something looks suspicious, don’t buy from the site.

Mistake #4: Not Checking the Return Policy
Make sure you read and understand the return policy before you hit “submit.” If the item needs to be returned, are you expected to pay for shipping or will the company cover the cost? How long after the initial purchase can a product be returned? Can final sale items be returned? Will the purchase be refunded in the original form of payment, or will the company issue store credit?

Mistake #5: Not Using a Credit Card
Charging the transaction allows you to dispute the purchase if it doesn’t arrive or doesn’t live up to expectations. At the same time, since identity theft—including the unauthorized use of credit card numbers—is growing, be sure to review your credit card statements regularly and contact the credit card issuer if you find anything that shouldn’t be on your bill. Finally, the online retailer should provide you with a receipt for your purchase when it’s complete, with an order or confirmation number. Print the receipt and keep it for proof of purchase.

Mistake #6: Shopping Using a Public Wifi Connection
While settling in at a coffee shop to shop online might be fun, it’s generally a bad idea. The connection you are using may not be secure, meaning that hackers can gain access to the personal information you share with the retailer and use it to make unauthorized purchases.

Smart Tip: Consult Your CPA
CPAs can offer advice to help you make smart spending decisions and keep your finances on track. Turn to your local CPA with all your financial questions.

TSCPA (http://www.tscpa.org) is a nonprofit, voluntary, professional organization representing Texas CPAs. The society has 20 local chapters statewide and has more than 27,000 members, one of the largest in-state memberships of any state CPA society in the United States. TSCPA is committed to serving the public interest with programs that advance the highest standards of ethics and practice within the CPA profession.

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Kari Peterson
Texas Society of CPAs
+1 (972) 687-8688
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