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State consumer safety experts issue tips for online shopping

Posted 11/5/22

With Black Friday and the holiday shopping season right around the corner, the New York State Division of Consumer Protection has some tips and advice for safe online shopping.

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State consumer safety experts issue tips for online shopping

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With Black Friday and the holiday shopping season right around the corner, the New York State Division of Consumer Protection has some tips and advice for safe online shopping.

“This holiday season, it’s a one-two punch for cost-conscious New Yorkers as they battle rising prices and ever-evolving scams,” said New York Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez, who oversees the Division of Consumer Protection.

“New Yorkers need to know how to spot fake online reviews, fake texts impersonating package delivery companies and they should never keep their credit cards on file for future purchases. There are laws to protect consumers, but consumers also need to know how to protect themselves from scammers this holiday season.”

The convenience of shopping online creates both opportunities and challenges for consumers, officials said. One of the major challenges is figuring out what is real or fake as scammers find new, more sophisticated ways to trick consumers. 

Online shopping safety tips:

Don’t rush when buying online. With a click of a button, we can quickly shop multiple sites, browse hundreds of items, comparison shop, find deals, read consumer reviews and make purchase decisions for a variety of items. Before you click, take the time to carefully read and review what you’re buying and who you’re buying it from.

Be careful when shopping on social media. Social media commerce is gaining ground among shoppers, and according to experts it’s growing three times faster than traditional ecommerce. Pay attention to brand imposters and fake retailers with fake consumer reviews. Avoid placing orders on these copycat sites for products that will never arrive.

Shop on trusted sites with retailers you know. Consumers are exposed to hundreds of retailer websites, and some promote products that may not meet their expectation by offering a poor-quality version of the advertised item. Some consumers have also reported not receiving any product at all. Use caution on trusted sites that host items for third-party sellers.

Beware of third-party vendors. If redirected from a trusted site to a third-party site, read the seller’s policies, review ratings, read consumer comments, and, most importantly, do a broad internet search before making your purchase. Trusted retailers who host third-party sellers do not warranty their sales, so you could get a substandard product or no product at all when you take the risk and purchase from an unknown third-party vendor.

Do your research if you want to try a new site or retailer. Performing a broad internet search will provide you with important feedback from other customers.

Learn how to spot a fake review. One red flag to look for is one-sided reviews with no specifics. Real reviews often reflect customer experiences that are balanced, descriptive and subjective. Also look for multiple reviews that look very similar and posted during the same timeframe. This is a sign that the reviewers are either copying information or were all written by the same person.

Read product specifications. Online marketing is geared to get you to buy, so it is important to understand the product you are purchasing and the terms of the sale to ensure you are getting what you want.

Keep track of your packages. Package tracking and delivery scams are
common during the holidays. Review the tracking information for your package and note any issues right away through the retailer’s websites.

Beware of phishing attempts. Another common scam this time of year is scammers using phishing emails and text messages to impersonate delivery companies, banking and credit card companies, and other large retailers, which often include links to sites attempting to steal your information.  Always open a browser and type the company’s website address yourself instead of clicking on a link in an email or text message.

Check the website’s encryption. Before entering your credit card information, make sure that the website’s address begins with “https” and that there is a closed lock on the website address bar or unbroken key symbol in the lower portion of your window.

Don’t keep the credit card on file for future purchases. Provide your credit card number each time you make a purchase.

Designate one credit card and one email address for online shopping. This will allow for easy review of purchases and provide protection in case of a dispute.

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