Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau of East Texas

Every year, more people head online to get their holiday shopping done. It’s estimated that half of all American adults shopped for bargains on the Monday after Thanksgiving 2011, spending approximately $1.2 billion.

“The convenience and ease of shopping online has replaced the hassle of going to the store for many people,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, president and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Shopping online means avoiding the crowds, but it also opens the buyer up to attacks from scammers and hackers."

BBB offers the “Top 10 Online Shopping Tips” to help fight unscrupulous online retailers, scammers and hackers:


1. Protect your computer – A computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.

2. Shop on trustworthy websites –Start with BBB to check on the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction. Always look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trustmarks” on retailer websites and click on the seals to confirm that they are valid.

3. Protect your personal information – Take the time to read the site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there isn’t one posted, your personal information may be sold to others without permission.

4. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true – Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. Don’t be afraid to pass up a “deal” that might cost you dearly in the end.

5. Beware of phishing – Remember, legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information.

6. Look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. Never shop while on a wi-fi hotspot.

7. Pay with a credit card – It’s best to use a credit card, because under federal law, the shopper can dispute the charges if he or she doesn’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.

8. Keep documentation of your order - BBB recommends saving a copy of the Web page and any confirmation e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.
9. Check your credit card statements often – Don’t wait for paper statements; check your credit card statements for suspicious activity by either calling credit card companies or by checking statements online regularly.

10. Know your rights – Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goods aren’t shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund. There is no general three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject merchandise if it’s defective or was misrepresented.


For more advice on staying safe online this holiday season, and to see reports on thousands of online retailers, go to