December may mark the most lucrative month for online retailers as web users hit the net in search of Christmas presents at a bargain price but it's by no means the end of it. In a still struggling economy, with everyone searching for value, consumers will encounter technology deals that might seem too good to be true. So, how can you avoid being taken advantage of? Here's five simple tips that will ensure you stay safe when shopping online.
The Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) predicts in total £17.4bn will be spent online during Q4. With more and more consumers willing to spend money online, sales will rise, but so will the risk of exposure to some sort of scam or cyber-crime right alongside those fabulous deals.
So, how can you avoid being taken advantage of?
There are many ways to keep yourself, your privacy, and your money safe this festive period. But, as the countdown to Christmas grows shorter, many of us abandon our common sense in the desperate pursuit of that one great gift or that one fantastic deal.
Therein lies the problem. The number one way to guard against online scams is to employ some common sense.
For example, many of us will go to extreme lengths to save a few pounds. This often includes venturing off the 'beaten path' and looking outside the major retailers on online auction or classified sites such as eBay, which the Better Business Bureau has cautioned against. While many of the deals offered on such sites are perfectly legitimate, the likelihood of stumbling into a scam is far greater on these sorts of sites.
When you have made your purchase, it's important to know your rights. For the full lowdown on your consumer rights, read our piece: 'how to shop safely online'. And if the worst happens, visit PC Advisor's Consumerwatch Forum for expert consumer support.
1. Too good to be true
If a deal seems too great, it probably is, especially if it's from an individual user or a 'minor' retailer. Be suspicious of any deal or sale that you can't believe is real. Maybe you've found the best buy of the season, but it's more likely that you've stumbled into a scam set up to defraud you and steal your money or information.
It's also important to remember that anyone you do business with online knows more about internet commerce - and its dangers - than you do.
Make sure you do some research about any online vendor you're considering making a purchase from. Some vendors believe quality customer service goes hand in hand with turning a profit. Others, such as Vitaly Borker, however, seem to value their bottom line over the satisfaction of their customers.
As reported in the New York Times and on Cnet.com, Borker took advantage of loopholes in credit card policies to refuse refunds and threaten customers. Only when he was in danger of being cut off by Visa and MasterCard did Borker begin meeting his customer's needs.
Some simple research might have tipped customers off that Borker's website was one to be avoided.
NEXT PAGE: Understand your credit cards
- Keeping money and personal details secure
- Understand your credit cards