Cyber Shopping Safely this Holiday Season

The state Department of Consumer Protection offers tips not to get ripped off while shopping online for holiday gifts.


From the state Department of Consumer Protection

The Department of Consumer Protection is joining consumer groups nationwide today in urging online shoppers to be cautious and wary in avoiding online scams that may be targeting cyber-shoppers today and in upcoming weeks.

“While smart phones and the Internet can make your holiday shopping faster and easier, there can also be pitfalls if you're not careful,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said. 

Online retailers are offering super deals to capitalize on “Cyber Monday” – one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. Unfortunately, scam artists are also ready to lure the unwary into divulging sensitive personal information and sending money for nonexistent products. 

“This year, with more and more shoppers using mobile devices to do some or all of their holiday shopping, we’re warning consumers to be on the lookout for a growing number of mobile ecommerce scams,” Rubenstein said.

The National Consumers League reports that more than half of all U.S. wireless users now have smart phones and 45 million consumers use shopping and e-commerce apps. Nielsen reports an 89% increase in the use of mobile apps for commerce and shopping in 2012. With so many shoppers now online, consumers need to be aware of and watch out for an upsurge in the number of mobile e-commerce scams, many targeted at holiday shoppers. 

  • Unsecured WiFi networks – Most smart phones are designed to operate on a carrier’s cellular network as well as on WiFi hotspots. When connected to a public hotspot, be careful entering sensitive information – banking and credit card information, for instance -- into online shopping sites and applications, since the connection is not secure and others are likely to be snooping on the network. 
  • Holiday phishing and SMSishing scams – Scammers may try to take advantage of bargain hunters by sending out phishing emails and text messages (known as “SMSishing”) offering seemingly unbeatable deals on holiday gifts, particularly hard-to-find toys. Clicking on these links may lead to phishing sites that install mobile malware or seek to get credit card or other sensitive information from shoppers.
  • Bogus online coupons – Today’s consumers increasingly rely on coupon apps and coupons specifically designed for storage on smart phones. Beware of suspicious emails or online ads offering these coupons, as they could lead to mobile malware sites.
  • Phony social network promotions – Consumers who use their phones to check in on Facebook or other social networks are likely to be targeted by ads for holiday deals, gifts, giveaways and promotions. Be wary about clicking on these ads, particularly if doing so prompts you to download an unfamiliar app to your phone.


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