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Advice for Avoiding Online Scams This Holiday Season

Along with online shopping sites, consumer advocates say people should choose carefully the nonprofits they donate to this holiday season. (PhotoMIX-Company/Pixabay)
Along with online shopping sites, consumer advocates say people should choose carefully the nonprofits they donate to this holiday season. (PhotoMIX-Company/Pixabay)
November 30, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – If you are planning to do all or part of your holiday shopping on the internet this year, consumer groups have some tips to protect yourself from scams over the long holiday shopping season.

Experts estimate that Americans will spend about $124 billion in online sales between now and December 25th. Timothy Johnston, vice president for outreach with the Better Business Bureau, says if you're going to give out personal information online, such as a credit card number, there are certain clues that indicate the website is more secure.

"Make sure it is https and also has that little lock icon in your web browser to make sure that the transaction is being encrypted,” he advises. “Also shop with a credit card, because if there happens to be any issues, the credit card typically provides a bit more protection for you as a consumer than, say, a debit card that is linked to your bank account."

Experts say it's important to read the site's return policy, which may change during the holidays or vary from types of items within the same website.

You can check out any online business before you shop by looking at its rating on BBB.org.

For some, the holiday season also is about charity – and one that is raising big money for some organizations. Giving Tuesday, which took place this week the day after Cyber Monday, raised $274 million for charitable groups in 2017.

But the Better Business Bureau advises people to be careful. Johnston says you should scrutinize the web address for irregularities to avoid scam sites that are trying to mimic a legitimate nonprofit.

"If you're not familiar with this organization, have never given to it, do your due diligence,” he urges. “Check them out at Give.org. And that's a site of BBB's that you can see if this organization has been evaluated and meets all 20 standards for charity accountability. "

He also advises people to be wary of sites that try to manipulate you with emotional appeals, and of people who ask for in-person, on-the-spot donations.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR