Take special care when shopping on Cyber Monday

Monday, November 26, 2012

Not that many years ago, shoppers had two choices when it came to buying a Christmas present; picking it out in person or ordering it through a catalog.

While most of us don't expect to spend much more this year than last, more and more of us are opting to shop from our computer terminal or smart phone, according to date company ComScore.

In the first 18 days of the shopping season, online spending is up 16 percent, to $10.1 billion, from the same period last year, according to figures released by ComScore on Wednesday.

In fact, many experts believe it is the competition of online retailers that has forced many physical stores to resort to earlier marketing ploys, such as "gray Thursday" in addition to "Black Friday."

The online stores have their turn today, when 85 percent of companies are offering "Cyber Monday" online specials, up 78 percent from last year.

Yes, online shopping offers selection and convenience, but there's no reason to think you aren't just as likely to be victimized by online crooks as the ones who would steal from you in person.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning offers some tips for those who plan to venture onto the Internet for their Christmas gifts this year:

* Read the website's privacy policy; if you don't feel comfortable with the terms, shop elsewhere.

* Shop with companies you know and trust -- and not necessarily pop-up ads just because they show up on a familiar site.

* Before you check out, look for indicators the site is secure before entering personal information.

* At check-out time, the name of the URL -- web address -- should be preceded by the letters https. A closed padlock or key icon should appear on the browser's status bar to let you know your information will be encrypted.

Don't complete a transaction on an open or public WiFi network.

Before you log off, print and save receipts and records of your online transactions. Don't allow sites to store your credit card information.

Remember, Bruning warns, never give personal information to sites linked from unsolicited e-mails or unsolicited pop-ups.

More information on online safety is available at www.ago.ne.gov or by calling the Consumer Protection Hotiline at (800) 727-6432.

Or better yet, choose something you can buy locally, with cash, from someone you know and trust.

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