It should come as no surprise that within the next couple of years, online retail sales are projected to continue to rise. According to Business Insider, online sales are expected to make up nearly a quarter of all retail sales in the United States by 2022. That is up from about 12 percent of all retail sales coming from online merchants in 2017.
Regardless of your opinion on the shift from brick-and-mortar stores to online purchasing, there is no denying that online shopping is here to stay. Unfortunately, with the rise in online shopping has come scammers who know how to take advantage of even the most vigilant consumers to make a buck.
Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific gives consumers these tips for having a safe, scam-free online shopping experience:
- Know the advertiser. Some of the best deals are only available online, but be careful. It’s easy for a fake site to mimic a famous retailer’s website, so make sure you are shopping with a legitimate site. If the site is missing contact information, that is a red flag. Check out retailers at bbb.org before you shop.
- Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page.
- Be a savvy shopper. When shopping online, be sure to take your time, and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for the return policy; although many online orders can be returned for a full refund, others have restocking fees. Some items cannot be returned; know before you buy.
- Shop with a credit card. In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protections; it’s easier to dispute charges that you didn’t approve. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as a credit card.
- Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and are satisfied. Be sure to know and understand the return policy and keep this documented with your purchase records.
- Keep a clean machine. Install a firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly on your computer, tablet, and smart phone.
For more consumer tips and the latest scam alerts, download the BBB App at bbbapp.org. Anyone who feels they may be a victim of a cybercrime should report it to local law enforcement and BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker.
Lauren Hall is the Western Washington marketplace manager for the Better Business Bureau based in DuPont. Reach her with consumer-related questions at email@example.com.