Delaware Attorney General advises online shoppers to protect personal information

While millions of people get sucked into the sales that kick off “Cyber Monday” and last during the rest of the holiday shopping season, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden reminds people of a few tips that will protect their most important information from hackers.

Often times, depending on the site where online purchases are made, personal financial information can be left unprotected. As a result, the increased traffic online can be a risky move for consumers.

According to IBM Smarter Commerce, online sales have already increased by 17.4 percent this Thanksgiving over last year. The sales are even more attractive on Black Friday and have increased by 20.7 percent. But it’s a different story on “Cyber Monday” says the National Retail Federation which estimates 85 percent of online retailers will offer customers special discounts today. That means it’s expected to be a very busy shopping day online.

“Going online is a great way to find holiday gifts, but shoppers should do some basic things to make sure that their sensitive personal information does not fall into the wrong hands,” said Biden.

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Biden offers a list that Delawareans should follow whenever they’re shopping online.• Purchase only from reputable retailers that you are familiar with. Make sure you have the retailer’s physical address and phone number in case you have problems with the purchase.• Never send personal or financial information through e-mail. Legitimate companies will not ask you to send personal identifying information via e-mail, because it is not a secure way to transfer such information.• Pay with a credit card. Using a credit card provides you with consumer protections not afforded by other payment options such as debit cards.• Read the fine print. When shopping online, it is important to read the product description and fine print very closely to ensure that you understand exactly what you are purchasing. Also, find out the website’s shipping and return policies. Some retailers that offer free shipping do charge fees for returned merchandise.• Comparison shop and figure out your total cost, including shipping charges. Use websites that provide you with a list of online retailers and the prices they’re charging for the item you are looking for.• Keep a record of all transactions. Print records of all your online orders, including the confirmation page, which will include information about your order, payment, and shipping, and any e-mails to and from retailers.• Place your order only when you know the site is secure. If a site is secure, the web address will begin with “https” rather than “http,” and a locked padlock icon will be visible at the bottom right of your computer’s screen. Be aware, however, that some con artists have learned to forge these security indicators. Also, avoid making purchases over public, non-secure networks such as those at coffee shops or libraries.• Protect your computers with anti-virus and anti-spyware programs and be creative with passwords you set up for online stores.

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