Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Greg Stumbo Offers Consumer Tips To Online Shoppers On “Black Monday”
Attorney General Greg Stumbo is today offering tips to consumers who plan to conduct their holiday shopping over the Internet. According to a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation, shoppers are expected to do a quarter of their holiday shopping online this year. The Monday following Thanksgiving is traditionally among the busiest days of the year in e-commerce, as people go into overdrive filling their digital shopping carts with holiday gifts.
The day has even earned the nickname “Black Monday,” with shopping fueled partly by people returning to work and using their high-speed Internet connections to browse the virtual aisles. The nickname is a spin on Black Friday, the all-important day after Thanksgiving when traditional stores lure throngs of customers with offers of major discounts.
“The Internet has become increasingly popular in recent years as the place to go to buy holiday gifts,” said Stumbo. “However, consumers must be warned that while online shopping may offer convenience and a wide variety of merchandise, there are red flags to be aware of when filling that holiday gift cart on the Internet.”
Stumbo offers the following tips:
- Consumers contact my Office of Consumer Protection with complaints about online auctions each year. Be sure to research vendors and personal sellers before making any purchases. Confirm an online seller’s physical address and phone number so you can contact them if the need arises.
- If you get an e-mail or pop-up message from the seller while you’re browsing that asks for financial information, don’t reply or click on the link in the message. Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via e-mail or pop-ups.
- Read the fine print to ensure you know what you’re getting. Read the seller’s product description closely. Words like “refurbished,” “vintage,” or “close-out” may indicate that the item is not in tip-top condition. Check the dimensions of the item. Also watch for “name-brand items” with cheap pricing. They could be counterfeit.
- Calculate your costs. Factor shipping and handling into the total cost of the order and evaluate this final, complete cost against your budget and needs.
- Carefully choose your payment method and check that the Web site is secure. Be suspicious if the seller tells you that you must pay by a money transfer service, such as Western Union. Under NO circumstances should you send cash. Neither method offers a paper trail of the transaction. Consider using an online payment service, such as PayPal, or your credit card, which protects your transaction under the Fair Credit Billing Act. Many companies do not hold consumers responsible for unauthorized charges made online, and some card issuers may provide additional warranty, return and/ or purchase protection benefits. Regardless of your payment method, always insist upon a receipt for your purchase.
- Maintain a paper trail. Print and save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and copies of any e-mail(s) you exchange with the seller. Read your credit card statements as you receive them to be on the lookout for unauthorized charges.
- When submitting your purchase information, look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar, and the phrase “https” in the URL address for a website to be sure your information is secure during transmission.
"A savvy mall shopper doesn’t carry cash and puts packages out of sight in the car trunk," Stumbo stated. "It is equally important to be a savvy online shopper. Help ensure your online holiday shopping is safe and secure."
Consumers who have complaints related to online purchases can contact the Attorney General Stumbo’s Office of Consumer Protection toll-free at 1-888-432-9257.