Holiday shopping online is extremely convenient, but it can also be extremely dangerous. Scammers construct many phony online shopping websites to lure you into providing your credit or debit card information. Sometimes they mimic legitimate websites and it is easy to create a website that looks just like a legitimate shopping website. If you are considering shopping online, you are generally better off using the websites of well-established retailers such as Amazon, Target or WallMart. If you are considering a website for a retailer with which you may not be familiar, you can go to www.resellerratings.com/ for reviews about particular merchants to find out if they are legitimate.
Always check the domain name of the website before you buy anything on the site. Regardless of how legitimate the website may appear, if the domain name does not appear to relate to the company, it is a scam. We are often told to look for the padlock icon and an “s” in the domain name as “https” rather than merely “http” as an indication that the data including your credit card information is safely being encrypted, however, both of these protections are not foolproof. Scammers have been able to counterfeit the padlock icon as well as obtain certificates allowing them to use “https” because they are encrypting information. However, the problem is that while the information may be encrypted in transit, it is being sent directly to a scammer so your credit card is unprotected.
If an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Scammers always pick the most popular and expensive items to lure people into sending them money for goods that never are delivered. You may wish to restrict your shopping to well-known, legitimate retailers and even then, make sure you are actually on their websites and not that of a scammer. While it is not perfect, one way of finding out who is behind a website is by going to https://www.whois.com/whois/ where you can often find out who actually owns the website where you are considering shopping. For example, here is the real website for Walmart. https://www.walmart.com/ and here is the whois page that indicates that the Walmart website is owned by Walmart which has its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. https://www.whois.com/whois/walmart.com
Also look for trust seals such as those of Norton Secured and Google Trusted Store on sites you are considering, however, there too you should not immediately trust the site merely because the seal appears on the website. These seals can be counterfeited to make the phony site appear legitimate. However, you can confirm whether the site is legitimate by clicking on the seal which will bring up information that will confirm if it is legitimate.
Another very good way to confirm if a website is legitimate is to use the Google Safe Browsing Transparency Report where you can check out a domain name and find out whether the website is legitimate. Here is a link to Google Safe Browsing Transparency Report. https://transparencyreport.google.com/safe-browsing/search
Even when shopping on a website that you are sure is legitimate, it is important to remember that while your liability for fraudulent use of your credit card is limited by federal law to no more than $50, your liability for fraudulent use of your debit card which is tied to your bank account is unlimited if you do not promptly discover and report the fraud so always use your credit card for shopping whether you are shopping online or offline.
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