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Cyber Monday Is Here: Stay On Guard On Line

With an uptick in sales over last year in the malls, the focus for shoppers - and scammers - now turns to the internet.

While actual numbers are not in yet, estimates for Black Friday sales ranged anywhere from six to more than 16 percent over last years sales. As the crowds now head back to work, they don't necessarily stop shopping, and hence 'Cyber Monday' is born. While nearly everyone has a computer at home, many who don't want their kids or spouse to see what they're ordering do so on their work computers, in a big way.

According to the National Retail Federation, seven in 10 online retailers expect their sales to grow at least 15 percent this holiday season. The survey also found that the average person plans to do 36 percent of his or her holiday shopping online – up from 33 percent last year.

While shopping online means avoiding the crowds, but it makes buyers vulnerable to attacks from scammers and hackers. So, the Better Business Bureau is offering these online shopping tips to help your identity and bank accounts stay safe.

· Shop on trustworthy websites. Check a seller's reputation and record for customer satisfaction at bbb.org. Look for the BBB seal and click to confirm the link is valid.

· Beware of “too good to be true” deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. Go with your instincts and don’t be afraid to pass up a "deal."

· Beware of phishing. If you receive an e-mail claiming problems with an order that asks for personal information or financial information, BBB recommends calling the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.

· Confirm the website is secure. Always look in the address box for the "s" in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before making an online purchase. If there are any doubts about a site, right-click anywhere on the page and select "properties" to see the real URL and if the site is not encrypted.

· Pay with a credit card.  Federal law allows for charges made on a credit card to be disputed if the item is never received. Many card issuers also have "zero liability" policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.

· Review the return policy. A return policy should be clearly listed on the company’s website. Read all of the conditions associated with the return policy, specifically how long you have to return an item. If you do not see the return policy listed, contact the company and ask them to provide you the information in writing.

· Verify when to expect shipped item. Pay close attention to the estimated delivery time to ensure you will get your item before Christmas. Federal law requires that orders made online be shipped by the date promised, however, if no delivery time is stated, stores have up to 30 days to get the item to you. And if it takes 30 days to receive the item you’re purchasing on Cyber Monday, you will not receive the item in time for Christmas.

· Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online order process, there should be a final confirmation page or an email confirmation. Print and save any confirmations for future reference.

To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org. For more information or further inquiries, please contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.wisconsin.bbb.org or 414-847-6000

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