Consumer advocates offer advice for safe Cyber Monday shopping

Published: Sunday, Nov. 25 2012 4:55 p.m. MST

In this photo taken Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 13, 2012, the Sierra Trading Post Fulfillment Center sits stocked in preparation for Cyber Monday in Cheyenne, Wyo. With record online sales projected for this holiday season, Internet shoppers are being warned to be aware of potential danger in cyberspace.

Kyle Grantham, ASSOCIATED PRESS

SALT LAKE CITY — With record online sales projected for this holiday season, Internet shoppers are being warned to be aware of potential danger in cyberspace.

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection released its annual list of shopping tips for Cyber Monday to keep consumers safe when buying this year's latest holiday gifts.

According to the National Retail Federation, 2012 holiday retail sales are expected to hit about $586 billion, a 4.1 percent increase over last year.

"Consumers will be flooded with offers as retailers send out emails to your smartphone and computer," said Francine Giani, executive director of the state Commerce Department. "Make sure your holiday game plan includes protecting your credit information, using reputable merchants and checking the terms of sales twice before completing a purchase whether it's in-store or online."

According to digital tracking firm comScore Inc., "Cyber Monday" continues to grow in popularity as consumers spent $1.25 million online in 2011 during the Monday after Thanksgiving.

The National Retail Federation estimates that more than 52 percent of consumers will purchase a holiday gift online this year. Shop.org projected a 12 percent increase in online holiday shopping with $96 billion in cyber sales between November and December 2012.

"Internet fraud is our division's top consumer complaint," explained Traci Gundersen, director of the Division of Consumer Protection. "Don't forget to read the fine print, such as the return policy and product warranty, before you cross that gift off your list."

10 tips for smart online shopping

1. Don't send cash or wire money for payment. Pay by credit or charge card.

2. Compare prices. Scammers will try to entice victims to their websites with ridiculously low prices. Also, remember to account for shipping and handling in the cost of online purchases.

3. Research the seller. Confirm the online seller's physical address and phone number in case you have any problems or questions.

4. Keep your anti-virus software up to date.

5. Enter financial information only on secure sites. If you initiate a purchase online, look for indicators that the site is secure. Although no indicator is foolproof, look for a lock icon on the browsers status bar or a URL address that includes an "s" after http. Also, do not email financial information, such as your credit card or checking account number.

6. Keep a paper trail in a file folder. Print and save records of all your online transactions.

7. Review the refund policy and delivery rates. Check who pays for the cost of shipping a returned item and if there is a "restocking" fee for returning an item.

8. Consider coupons. Some companies offer discounts via email, and some websites collect and list codes for free shipping and other discounts.

9. Read retailer and product reviews. Reviews from other people, experts and columnists can give you an idea of how a product performs.

10. Use your Smartphone wisely. Mobile devices offer convenient consumer resources but may also provide fraudsters with your personal and account information.

Source: Utah Division of Consumer Protection

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