How to Protect Yourself and Avoid Scams When Holiday Shopping Online

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The Association of Credit Counseling Professionals, ACCPros, Shares Smart Ways to Avoid Scams and Protect Your Credit During Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Americans are expected to spend $617 billion during the 2014 holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. A lot of that money will be spent online, during Black Friday or Cyber Monday on December 1.

“Shopping online from the comfort and convenience of your home can be a great way to save time and money,” says Judy Sorensen, president of the Association of Credit Counseling Professionals, ACCPros. “But you must also watch out for cyber threats and a host of other pitfalls when doing your holiday shopping online.”

Her are 5 ways Sorensen and the experts from ACCPros suggest you can protect yourself when holiday shopping online.

1.    Pay with a credit card

Although you might be tempted to use a debit card for your purchases, in order to avoid racking up debt, it’s actually better to pay with a credit card. That’s because federal law gives you more protection and additional consumer rights with a credit card – like the ability to dispute unauthorized charges, and the option to dispute charges when you don’t receive an item or it’s delivered damaged or defective.

2.    Only shop on secure sites

One of the easiest things you can do to safeguard your online shopping experience is to make sure you see “https” – not just “http” – at the beginning of the website domain name for any store where you’re buying merchandise. “Don’t ever enter your credit card information if you don’t see ‘https’ online, because that lets you know the site is encrypted and has various layers of security,” says Sorensen.

3.    Avoid phony bank websites

If you’re shopping with a mobile device or smart phone, and you’ll be accessing your own bank account for funds, don’t fall victim to con artists who set up fraudulent bank websites or spoof your bank’s site and make it look real. They’re trying to steal your banking information and tap into your accounts.

To avoid this trap, download your bank’s mobile application right to your smartphone. This ensures you’ll only visit the bank’s legitimate site, instead of an impostor site.

Also, when you use your smartphone, connect to the mobile site only through a secure wireless network. “Don’t shop from computers in public places, like hotel lobbies or Internet cafes,” Sorensen says, “because then you’ll have to send your information via public connections, and that can be risky.”

4. Don’t forget to use appropriate software

Another way to boost your shopping safety online is to protect your laptop, desktop computer or mobile phone prior to making any holiday purchases. “Using spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, along with a firewall on your computer and your mobile phone, can reduce the chances of a cyber crook getting your personal data,” says Sorensen.

5. Routinely check your credit card statements

Thieves who stole customer data have targeted stores such as Target, Home Depot and Neiman Marcus recently. In some cases, cyber breaches have led to fraudulent charges. So regardless of where and how you’re shopping this holiday season, make sure you always review your monthly credit card statements.

“If anything looks suspicious, alert your credit card company immediately,” Sorensen suggests.

About ACCPros

The Association of Credit Counseling Professionals, ACCPros, is the credit counseling industry’s newest and fastest growing trade association. ACCPros hopes to distinguish itself from other associations by placing an emphasis on ethics and compliance and focusing on best practices, quality service, education, training, and
professional ethics. ACCPros member agencies can be a great resource for consumers seeking help managing their debt. Call the toll-free ACCPros Locator Line at 800-635-0553 to speak with a certified credit counselor at an agency licensed/registered in your state.

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