Online shopping scams can, at best, mean a financial loss.  At worst, they can also compromise your personal information. Here are tips to help you avoid online shopping scams and shop safely online.

Young girl online shopping with the padlock showing from the website

Shop from Reputable Retailers

When shopping online, stick to well-known and trusted retailers. Established e-commerce websites have robust security measures in place to protect your information and are more likely to offer genuine products. Be cautious when dealing with unknown or unverified sellers, especially on social media or smaller, less-known websites.

Verify Website Authenticity

Before making a purchase, verify the authenticity of the website. Look for signs such as a padlock icon in the address bar, indicating a secure connection, and "https://" in the URL, where the "s" stands for "secure." Additionally, check for contact information, physical address, and customer reviews to ensure the site’s legitimacy.

Use Secure Payment Methods

Opt for secure payment methods when making online purchases. Credit cards, debit cards, and reputable payment services offer protection against fraudulent transactions. Avoid less secure, untraceable payment options like wire transfers or gift cards.

Be Wary of Too-Good-To-Be-True Deals

Online shopping scams often lure victims with unbelievably low prices or exclusive deals. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Exercise caution and research the product and the seller before making a purchase. Compare prices with other retailers to gauge the legitimacy of the deal.

Avoid Phishing Emails and Links

Beware of phishing emails and links that may direct you to fraudulent websites designed to steal your information. Avoid clicking on suspicious links or opening attachments from unknown sources. Legitimate retailers won’t ask for sensitive information through email. If you want to check the status of your order and shipping details, use the site you ordered from to get the status and tracking number.

Protect Your Personal Information

Only provide necessary information when making online purchases. Avoid sharing unnecessary personal details and ensure that the website's privacy policy is clear about how your information will be used. If a site requests more information than is customary for a purchase, consider it a red flag.

Use Strong Passwords

Create strong, unique passwords for your online shopping accounts. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, and avoid using easily guessable information like birthdays or names. Consider using a password manager to securely keep track of your login credentials.

Check Your Statements

Regularly monitor your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized transactions. If you notice any discrepancies, contact INB or your other financial institution right away. Your prompt action can prevent further fraud.

Read Product Reviews

Before making a purchase, read product reviews and ratings from other customers. Legitimate reviews can provide valuable insights into the quality and authenticity of products and the reliability of the seller. To help find reviews, type in the name of the company or product you’re interested in along with the words “fraud,” “complaint” and “scam” after it. Use other people’s experiences to help you make a buying decision.

Update Your Devices and Software

Keep your devices, including computers and smartphones, and software up to date with the latest security patches and updates. Outdated software can leave you vulnerable to online threats.

Report the Crime

If you get caught up in an online shopping scam, don’t be embarrassed.  You were the victim of a crime, an event no one should have to experience. Your report can stop a criminal and help assure others don’t fall victim to the same crime! You should report the crime to the police AND INB if someone had access to  your account or debit card. The Federal Trade Commission also has a webpage with other available resources.  The heading on the site reads:  “Report to help fight fraud!” To that we add, “Please --  report -- to help us all fight fraud.