Voice of the Consumer: Safe shopping tips for Cyber Monday

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THE GAZETTE -- Happy holidays, everyone! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving! Now, it’s time to warm up your keyboards and get ready for one of my favorite holidays, Cyber Monday! If you’re like me and you’re planning on shopping online this holiday season, you’ll want to keep these important internet safety tips in mind.

I talked with my contacts at AARP ElderWatch, and they sent me a list of ways to make sure you stay safe while shopping online. First, don’t share your banking information while using free public Wi-Fi or public computers. If you’re shopping at home and using your own private, secure Wi-Fi, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

Second, AARP said that you should shop only on secure sites with a URL website address that begins with “https” and/or displays a padlock in your browser to show that it’s secure. Make sure to do your research about the company before making a purchase. I also want to add that you should make sure to check the URL website address very carefully. Scammers like to change just one letter or number of a website to make it look like you’re buying something from a legitimate company.

Third, make sure your computer and browser security features are installed and updated, according to AARP ElderWatch. Read the fine print and the return policy before you make a purchase. Make sure to keep your receipt and keep a record of your purchase on file. AARP also suggests that you should only use a credit card when shopping online. Don’t use any unconventional forms of payment, like money orders. Keep a close eye on your credit card statements this time of year and report any unauthorized purchases.

I also want to remind you that you shouldn’t click on any pop-ups on your phone or computer. If you get an email this holiday season, don’t click any links in the email. Instead, type in the legitimate website into your browser to ensure you are going to the proper website. If you get a phone call saying there’s something wrong with your computer, it’s a scam and you should just hang up. When it comes to sales that look too good to be true, trust your gut and watch for knockoff products.

You can report online fraud to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, or call AARP’s ElderWatch volunteers at 800-222-4444.

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